Miami Herald, The (FL) – October 27, 1989

The Federal Communications Commission, continuing its first-ever crackdown on indecency on the airwaves, imposed fines against four radio stations Thursday — including two in Miami that broadcast talk-show host Neil Rogers.

The FCC cited WIOD-AM and WZTA-FM and stations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles for segments that, among other things, substitute candy brand names for body parts and pitch a beer for lesbians.

FCC officials said the stations aired the material during daytime hours when children were likely to be listening, defined as 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The fines were announced on the same day that the commission voted 4-0 to launch an inquiry into establishing a 24-hour ban on indecent broadcasting ordered by Congress last year.

WIOD was fined $10,000. The material ruled indecent — four joke songs and a fake commercial — was aired by top-rated Rogers during his mid-day show. WZTA was fined $2,000 for a joke song that Rogers played last year during his morning show on that station, before he moved to WIOD.

South Florida broadcasters said the fines are part of a continuing crackdown by the FCC under its new conservative chairman, Alfred Sikes, who took office in August.

“I liken it to the Starship Enterprise going into a time warp, and suddenly, the rules are different,” said Mike Disney, general manager of WIOD.

The FCC also fined KLUC-FM in Las Vegas $2,000 and KFI-AM in Los Angeles $6,000.

The commission said the recordings fall under its definition of indecency: “Language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs.”

The stations have 30 days to appeal or pay.

“We’re looking into the complaint,” said WZTA general manager Tim Williams. “We will respond when our investigation is complete.”

Disney hasn’t decided if WIOD will pay the fine: “The fact is that this is, I think, censorship, and this would not stand up against the First Amendment.”

Sikes could not be reached for comment Thursday, but during a speech to a National Association of Broadcasters convention in September, he talked about indecency on the airwaves:

“Ask yourself whether Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or others, had such material or circumstances in mind when the First Amendment was being crafted.”

Disney said the best way to measure the “contemporary community standards” quoted in the FCC indecency definition is by community acceptance — ratings. Arbitron ratings show Rogers is the most popular AM talk-show host in South Florida.

Miami communications lawyer John Spencer said no fine has ever made it through the appeals process and actually been paid.

The FCC, acting on a backlog of 95 complaints dating back two years, issued warnings Thursday to four other stations in New York, Cleveland, St. Louis and Paris, Ark.

The other 87 cases were thrown out, most because the alleged infractions took place at night.

The FCC’s Miami actions were another salvo in the continuing battle between Rogers and long-time foe John B. Thompson, a Coral Gables lawyer who thinks Rogers’ shows are offensive. Both fines were instigated by Thompson’s complaints to the FCC.

Neither Rogers nor Thompson would comment Thursday because of pending lawsuits.

Caption: photo: Neil ROGERS
Index terms: RADIO MD NATL US FCC FINE ROGERS Record: 8903160195
Copyright: Copyright (c) 1989 The Miami Herald

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