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Detroit Radio Station Fined by FCC

WASHINGTON – A Detroit radio station was fined on Monday $27,500 for airing a show during which the hosts and listeners described strange and explicit sex techniques, including physical assaults on women.

The Federal Communications Commission also warned Viacom Inc.’s Infinity radio unit, owner of the station that aired the program, 97.1 WKRK-FM in Detroit, that it could face the revocation of its broadcast license if further serious indecency violations occur.

A divided FCC voted to impose the statutory maximum fine on Infinity, but some commissioners argued that they should have immediately considered revoking its broadcast license or imposed a higher fine based on each act described.

“A fine of $27,500 is not even a slap on the wrist to Infinity for airing what can only be described as vulgar and disgusting indecency,” said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. “This commission should have conducted a hearing on revocation of this station’s license.”

The FCC did put radio broadcasters on notice that it will consider each utterance a violation in the future, which would increase the amount of fines.

Federal law bars the airing of obscene speech and limits broadcasting indecent material that contains sexual or excretory references in a patently offensive manner.

The FCC defines as indecent speech that depicts or describes sexual organs or activities, and a broadcast must be “patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.”

The show in question, “Deminski & Doyle,” aired Jan. 9, 2002 between 4:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., a prime listening hour for children. The show hosts did warn women and children not to listen to that segment.

“The material that Infinity broadcast was extremely graphic, lewd and offensive and continued over an extended period of time and included conversations with nine callers,” the FCC said.

Infinity told the FCC that the indecency standard violated the broadcaster’s free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution. The Detroit show is still on the air.

“We’re studying the document (forfeiture order) and evaluating our options,” said Infinity spokesman Dana McClintock.

The radio group has had several battles with the FCC over indecency, including involving its syndicated “The Howard Stern Show” and the now-canceled “Opie and Anthony” show.

That show, aired on Infinity’s New York WNEW-FM and other stations, was scuttled after complaints flooded in about a broadcast of a contest in which listeners were challenged to have sex in public places. That incident won a $357,500 fine from the FCC.
 

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