US radio fined for 'indecency'
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Saturday 19 December 1992
That is the message of a record dollars 600,000 ( pounds 385,000) fine being imposed on the company that employs Howard Stern, arguably the world's filthiest radio talkshow host. Mr Stern is a shaggy-haired provocateur who has parlayed his talents at discussing genitalia, homosexuals, masturbation and defecation into a dollars 2m annual salary from the Infinity Broadcasting Corporation. Now he has a new distinction: symbol of a national row over government censorship.
After months of conflict between self-appointed guardians of public morality and the no less vociferous defenders of the First Amendment, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally acted. Infinity is being asked to pay the largest-ever fine for violating the 'indecency' laws that the FCC has been trying since 1987 to impose on the American media.
By a four-to-one margin the FCC's board rejected a far tougher proposal from its chairman, Alfred Sikes, that would have hit Infinity where it really hurts - by blocking a dollars 100m bid to buy three more radio stations in Boston, Chicago and Atlanta. In doing so, it has ended up by pleasing no one.
For Mr Sikes and outraged conservatives in Congress and elsewhere, the final verdict goes nowhere near far enough to protect the supposedly tender ears of American children. For libertarians, however, this encroachment by the FCC is an infringement of every citizen's constitutional right to free speech.
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