By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Radio station giant Clear Channel Communications Inc. said on Wednesday it was dumping nationally syndicated shock jock Howard Stern from its stations under a new "zero tolerance" policy toward indecency.
In dropping Stern from its six radio outlets that carry his show, Clear Channel cited his interview on Tuesday with Rick Salomon, the man who was filmed having sex with hotel heiress and TV reality star Paris Hilton in a video widely distributed on Internet porn sites.
According to a transcript of the show released by San Antonio, Texas-based Clear Channel, Stern asked Salomon if he engaged in anal sex and referred to the size of his penis. Using a racist term, a caller to the show asked Solomon if he had ever had sex with any famous black women.
The action against Stern came a day after Clear Channel fired Florida radio personality "Bubba the Love Sponge," after federal regulators accused him of airing sexually graphic material on Tampa's WXTB-FM and three other Florida stations.
Stern's New York-based show is syndicated by Infinity Broadcasting, a unit of Viacom Inc., which also owns television networks CBS and MTV. Infinity operates 185 radio stations nationwide.
A spokesman for Infinity was not immediately available for comment and a Viacom spokesman declined comment. Neither Stern's agent nor producers of his show were immediately available for comment.
Viacom president Mel Karmazin reportedly has imposed a crackdown on sexually explicit material on Infinity stations, declaring in a recent company-wide conference call: "This company won't be a poster child for indecency."
But it was unclear what impact, if any, such an admonition would have on Stern, who has long defied federal regulators and spawned countless imitators with a ribald show featuring porn stars and strippers and bits like "Lesbian Dial-a-Date."
The action against the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" came after Clear Channel announced what Chief Operating Officer Mark Mays called a "zero tolerance" policy toward material deemed in violation of federal broadcast decency standards.
"Clear Channel drew a line in the sand today with regard to protecting our listeners from indecent content, and Howard Stern's show blew right through it," Clear Channel Radio president John Hogan said in a statement.
"It was vulgar, offensive and insulting, not just to women and African Americans but to anyone with a sense of common decency."
The San Antonio-based company, the largest U.S. radio station operator with more than 1,200 outlets, said it will amend contracts with all on-air personalities to hold disc jockeys financially responsible for indecent comments on-air.
The Stern show was carried by Clear Channel stations in six markets -- Fort Lauderdale, Rochester, Orlando, San Diego, Pittsburgh, and Louisville.
The policy changes are the latest taken by broadcasters to address decency concerns following the Feb. 1 CBS telecast of the Super Bowl half-time show, when pop diva Janet Jackson's right breast was exposed on live television.
Said Hogan: "If a DJ is found to be in violation of FCC rules, there will be no appeals and no intermediate steps. If they break the law by broadcasting indecent material, they will not work for Clear Channel."
Hogan and other broadcast executives are slated to testify Thursday before Congress about broadcast standards.
Gordon Hodge, a media analyst with Thomas Weisel, said he doubted the move would have much financial impact on Clear Channel, given that it carried Stern's show in just six markets, and added "He's obviously a very popular personality. I can't image that Infinity would take him off the air."
He predicted that other stations in the six markets would pick up Stern's program. "It would be quite profitable (for a smaller company), he said.
Clear Channel's share price closed on Wednesday 52 cents higher on the New York Stock Exchange AT $43.44.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Jeremy Pelofsky in New York and Sue Zeidler in Los Angeles)