The Federal Communications Commission cracked down on indecency on the airwaves yesterday, issuing a hefty $55,000 fine against Washington's DC-101 because "Elliot in the Morning" Segal grilled high school girls about their sex lives on the air. And the agency levied a near-record $357,500 fine against the now-defunct "Opie & Anthony" show for broadcasting a Northern Virginia couple's sexual encounter inside New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The "Opie & Anthony" syndicated broadcast was heard locally on WJFK-FM. That fine -- against Infinity Broadcasting, which owns the show's former flagship station, WNEW-FM in New York -- is the second largest for indecency ever handed out by the FCC. In 1995, Infinity paid $1.7 million to settle a slew of cases against shock jock Howard Stern.
The $55,000 fine targeting Clear Channel Communications, owner of WWDC-FM (DC-101), where Segal's show originates, also ranks among one of the top indecency fines in recent years, according to an FCC spokesman.
Both Clear Channel and Infinity have 30 days to pay or appeal, although yesterday each company remained vague on its plans.
"We have been afforded an opportunity to respond and we intend to do that," an Infinity spokesperson said.
Clear Channel senior vice president for government affairs Andrew Levin said in a statement: "It is never our intention to offend, but to entertain. Clear Channel will work with our local station managers and on-air talent to make sure the lines drawn by the FCC today are not crossed in the future."
In its decision against Clear Channel, the commission cited "graphic and explicit references to the sexual activities of the school's students and administrators" and that "discussions about and references to sexual activities pervaded both broadcasts."
In May last year, two female students from Arlington's Bishop O'Connell High School phoned the "Elliot in the Morning" drive-time program in hopes of winning an audition to dance in a cage at an upcoming Kid Rock concert. During the call, the two students detailed sexual encounters they said they performed within the school's halls.
"You've never lined, like, four of five guys up against lockers, have you?" Elliot asked one.
"Not four or five," answered the caller who identified herself as Lauren.
Elliot: "One or two?"
Lauren: "Two or three."
Both callers said they were 18.
Segal criticized school administrators on the next day's program after learning that the two students had been suspended. And he talked with other O'Connell students about the previous day's conversations, with continued references to sexual activity in the school.
The FCC received complaints from the Rev. Michael Taylor, the school's chaplain, and 73 O'Connell students. Taylor could not be reached for comment at the school or his office yesterday afternoon.
"Goading school children in a pandering manner to discuss sexual activities of students and administrators in a school setting shows a deliberate attempt to heighten the shock to listeners," FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelsteinn wrote in a statement accompanying the opinion. "The broadcasts clearly offended community standards."
In August 2002, Greg Hughes and Anthony Cumia, aka "Opie & Anthony," broadcast a play-by-play of a couple's sexual activity in a vestibule at the famed New York church. The broadcast brought more than 500 complaints to the FCC. They were fired by Infinity a week after the stunt. Just last week, Brian Florence, who was one of the participants, died of a heart attack at 38 in Alexandria.