WASHINGTON (BP)–Clear Channel Radio announced a change in direction in the level of indecency permitted on its 1,200 radio stations during the same week its top executive testified before a congressional panel.
Officials at Clear Channel announced a new policy Feb. 25 to raise the bar of what is considered permissible talk on air. The company said will institute a “zero tolerance policy” for indecent content, which will include company-wide training and automatic suspensions for anyone accused by the Federal Communications Commission of violating indecency rules.
The same day, the nation’s largest radio chain suspended shock jock Howard Stern’s show from six stations — the only Clear Channel outlets that air the show — after Stern crossed the line on his Feb. 25 show. The indecency allegation reportedly centers around an interview Stern aired with Paris Hilton’s ex-boyfriend in which a caller spouted a racial slur.
“Clear Channel drew a line in the sand today with regard to protecting our listeners from indecent content, and Howard Stern’s show blew right through it,” Clear Channel’s President and CEO John Hogan said in a news release. “It was vulgar, offensive and insulting, not just to women and African Americans but to anyone with a sense of common decency.”
Stern’s show is still being carried in 75 markets on stations owned by Viacom’s Infinity Broadcasting, but Clear Channel has said the show will not air on its stations until Stern assures officials he will conform to acceptable broadcasting standards, the Associated Press reported.
Hogan joined executives from ABC, Fox, NBC and Pax in testifying before the House Energy and Commerce telecommunications subcommittee Feb. 26 as part of the second hearing on indecency since Janet Jackson’s Feb. 1 Super Bowl incident.
House members questioned why Stern was being suspended over something that was no more outrageous than his regular content.
“We were very happy to see today’s news that part of his show has been scrubbed,” subcommittee chairman Fred Upton, R.-Mich., said, according to the AP. “I don’t think what he said this week is much different from what he’s been saying for years. Why didn’t this happen earlier?”
Hogan agreed that Stern’s recent shows have not been more shocking than typically has been the case.
“I don’t think he’s changed his tune; we have changed ours,” Hogan said. “We’re going in a different direction.”
Stern’s suspension was the second move of its kind made by Clear Channel in recent days. The company fired Todd Clem, a DJ known as “Bubba the Love Sponge,” Feb. 24 after he received a record FCC fine of $755,000 resulting from a program that included graphic discussions about sex and drugs.
During his House testimony, Hogan apologized for allowing his company to broadcast material such as that from Stern and Clem.
“We were wrong to air that material,” Hogan said, the AP reported. “I accept responsibility for our mistake, and my company will live with the consequences of its actions.”