FCC issued a release stating that this was the highest amount permitted
by the Communications Act on the facts of this case. The Commission
took the decision because of the egregious nature of the material,
the involvement of many Infinity employees and managers in planning
the marketing event, and Infinity's recent history of the airing
of indecent or apparently indecent broadcasts.
FCC based its action on more than 500 complaints regarding Infinity's
15 August 2002, broadcast of an Infinity-hosted contest Sex for
Sam. This involved participants having sex in "risky locations"
throughout New York City, including St Patrick's Cathedral, a zoo,
Rockefeller Center and a toy store.
However FCC Commissioner Michael J Copps felt that the fine imposed
was inadequate. He said, "I dissent from the Commission's decisions
to provide no more than a slap on the wrist to Infinity rather than
take serious action to address indecency on our airwaves. Today,
the majority proposes a $27,500 fine for each incident of airing
what the majority agrees appears to be indecent programming at a
time when children likely composed a significant portion of the
Copps continued, "In the case of Infinity/Viacom, 13 stations
ran the Opie and Anthony Show which contained a broadcast
of sexual activity at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York as part
of an on-air stunt. In this stunt Sex for Sam, couples received
points for having sex in public places. In addition to St Patrick's
Cathedral, the broadcast described sexual activity at restaurants,
at the Disney Store and at FAO Schwartz."
Cops said he defied anyone to read the transcript and argue that
the broadcast does not violate the statutory prohibition against
airing indecent material. "And I defy anyone to argue that
a $27,500 fine to each of the stations owned by a multi-billion
dollar conglomerate is adequate to address this clear violation
of federal law. Infinity/Viacom could pay this entire fine by tacking
just one more commercial onto one of its prime-time TV shows and
probably pocket a profit to boot. Some punishment!" he said.
The commissioner went on to point out that this was not the first
action against a station owned by Infinity. Infinity stations paid
$1.7 million in 1995 to settle a series of indecency cases. As part
of that settlement, Infinity had agreed to take steps to prevent
further broadcast of indecent material. More complaints involving
other Infinity broadcasts followed.
He explained, "Last April, this Commission issued another
tepid proposed fine against another station owned by this same company
- WKRK-FM in Detroit - which had aired some of the most vulgar and
disgusting indecency that I have had the misfortune to examine.
In that decision, the majority warned that repeated serious violations
by Infinity could result in the revocation of station licenses.
The majority repeats that same warning again in this decision."
The release adds that two months before the airing of the Sex
for Sam episode the FCC had cited the same show for three separate
apparent violations of the indecency statutes. These shows aired
between November 2000 and January 2001.
In one instance, a graphic song showcasing a father having oral
sex with his young daughter was broadcast. In the second instance,
the Opie and Anthony Show aired another graphic song by a
man seeking girls between the ages of two and three for sex. In
the third instance, the show provided detailed and vulgar instructions
to a teenager.
The commissioner added, "If this situation does not meet the
majority's test for repeated violators, I fail to understand what
would. The message to licensees is clear. Even egregious repeated
violations will not result in revocation of a license. Rather, they
will result only in a financial penalty that doesn't even rise to
a serious cost of doing business. I wonder when this Commission
will finally take a firm stand against the "race to the bottom"
on our airwaves."