ARBITRATORS TO DETERMINE IF BROADCASTS ARE INDECENT (December 3, 1987)

ARBITRATORS TO DETERMINE IF BROADCASTS ARE INDECENT

Sun Sentinel December 3, 1987 by Buddy Nevins

Under an unprecedented agreement, radio host Neil Rogers will allow a Coral Gables lawyer and three arbitrators to determine whether his future shows are indecent.

If the arbitrators find Rogers made an indecent broadcast, lawyer John B. ‘Jack’ Thompson will be paid $5,000.

In return, Thompson will end his campaign to get advertisers to boycott Rogers because of the sexual content of his WZTA (94.9-FM) shows. The station claimed in a lawsuit that the campaign had cost them thousands of dollars.

”This gives me the right to censor Rogers,” Thompson said. ”He will have to obey FCC (Federal Communications Commission) rules forbidding indecency like anybody else.”

The FCC forbids the broadcasting of ”language or material that depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs,” except between midnight and 6 a.m.

”I’ve never heard of anything like this agreement. It really puts Neil on the spot to control himself,” said talk show host Steve Kane, of WIOD (610- AM).

In the past several weeks, station managers have ordered Rogers to drop comedy routines containing sexual material and play more rock music, the talk show host has conceded while on the air.

The agreement signed on Wednesday ended four months of legal wrangling. The two lawsuits filed in the case were dropped.

The dispute began when Thompson complained during the summer that Rogers was obscene and started contacting station advertisers.

Rogers struck back by insulting Thompson on the air. Listeners responded by harassing the lawyer, according to court documents.

The agreement stipulates that if Thompson thinks that Rogers broadcasts indecent material five times in three months, he can submit a complaint to three arbitrators. One would be picked by Thompson, one by the station and a third by the first two arbitrators.

A hearing would be conducted and the arbitrators would determine whether Rogers had violated FCC standards.

As part of the deal, WZTA and sister station WINZ (940-AM) will not mention Thompson, the suits or settlement. But Rogers and other station broadcasters will be allowed to respond to any comments Thompson makes about the dispute.

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