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FCC refuses to censor satellite radio

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission rejected a request yesterday to begin imposing indecency standards on satellite radio, where frequent agency target Howard Stern is taking his show.

The FCC’s media bureau turned aside a radio station owner’s request that broadcast indecency regulations apply to subscription satellite services.

Saul Levine, who owns three radio stations in California, asked the commission in October to modify its satellite radio rules to include an indecency provision similar to the one that governs broadcast stations using public airwaves.

In a letter to the FCC, Levine complained that the commission needed to create a “level playing field” in protecting the public interest. “Indecent programming has been and continues to be an ongoing problem — as clearly evidenced by the number of monetary sanctions over the past few years,” he wrote.

The agency, in a letter from media bureau chief Kenneth Ferree, declined Levine’s request.

“The commission has previously ruled that subscription-based services do not call into play the issue of indecency,” Ferree wrote.

Levine, who is president of Mt. Wilson FM Broadcasters Inc. in Los Angeles, says the dismissal amounted to a double standard by the FCC.

“The commission is saying it’s fine to have obscenity any time of the day or night on satellite radio even though satellite radio is being made available to people without subscriptions,” such as in rental cars that come with free service, Levine said in a telephone interview.

Stern, who has repeatedly railed against the “censorship” of the FCC, has been involved in the two biggest radio fines imposed by the agency. That includes a record $1.75 million settlement reached over the summer.

In October, he announced his move to satellite radio and said “the FCC ... has stopped me from doing business.” He debuts in January 2006 on Sirius Satellite Radio.


Clear Channel to pay record $1.75 million to settle indecency claims

Nation's largest radio chain 'has now formally admitted that it violated the law and has made binding commitments to clean up its act,' says FCC chairman. 06.10.04

Viacom to pay $3.5 million to settle indecency probe
Government watchdog group criticizes agreement, says becoming more acquiescent with FCC oversight may make good business sense, but could mean losing free speech. 11.24.04

Republicans urge satellite, cable indecency rules
National Association of Broadcasters, representing over-the-air TV, also wants same restrictions extended to all television programming. 03.02.05

Turn the dial: shock radio and freedom of speech
By Ken Paulson Ultimately it’s the public — not the FCC — who can apply pressure when on-air stunts get ugly. 09.22.02

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