The broadcasting company that aired a live description of two people having sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral refused to pay the $357,500 indecency fine it was issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Infinity Broadcasting was issued the fine after two of their radio hosts on the Opie & Anthony program on WNEW-FM dared listeners to have sex in the cathedral in August 2002.
According to the New York Post, Infinity Broadcasting is seeking a reduction of the fine. Infinity claims that the WNEW-FM broadcast contained only “oblique references and innuendo” and was not indecent under the FCC standards.
The FCC also issued $27,500 fines to 12 other Infinity stations that aired the broadcast, the maximum allowed under federal regulations.
Infinity has a reputation of dodging FCC fines. In the last decade, the FCC also lodged indecency complaints against Howard Stern, another Infinity radio host. Fines against Stern during the 1990s totaled $1.7 million. The FCC wiped the slate clean for Stern in 1995, accepting a $1.7 million “donation” from Infinity in return for not citing the violations when Infinity’s licenses came up for renewal.
Jan LaRue, Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) chief counsel, encouraged the FCC to hold firm on the fine.
“Indecency fines do not count against a station unless they are paid,” communications attorney Arthur Belenduik told CWA’s Culture & Family Institute, reported the newspaper. Broadcast networks often prefer to challenge indecency fines rather than pay them. “The battle against broadcast indecency must continue into the appeal process as well as the renewal of the broadcast licenses of repeat offenders,” he added.
Meanwhile, WNEW employee Paul Mercurio, who provided the live, on-air commentary of the sex acts, pled guilty to disorderly conduct charges in October and was sentenced to seven days of community service, reported the newspaper.
Loretta Harper, 36, and Brian Florence, 38, who were arrested for the St. Patrick’s stunt, also pled guilty to disorderly conduct and were sentenced to five days of community service earlier this month. Florence died in September of a heart attack.
Gregg Hughes and Anthony Cumia, a.k.a. “Opie & Anthony,” were fired after the broadcast, but they continue to receive their full salary under a contract with Infinity that expires in June 2004.