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FCC Looking into Oprah Obscenities

04/01/2004 01:50PM

A rep for the Federal Communications Commission confirms that the agency has launched an investigation into daytime talk-show host Oprah Winfrey's program, the New York Post reports.

The FCC is looking into Oprah's show after receiving "more than a few complaints" about possible indecent or obscene programming, the rep says.

At least some of the complaints were no doubt generated by radio host Howard Stern, who has publicly called for an investigation into Winfrey's show following the FCC's crackdown on his show.

Stern went on a radio and Internet offensive against Winfrey when he claimed that he was being unfairly fined while Oprah broadcast equally questionable material. To prove his point, Stern referred to a March 18 Winfrey show on which the topic of teenage sex was discussed, the Post reports.

The controversial radio host posted a transcript of the show on his Web site, even though he was not allowed to read an excerpt of it on the air. "If they fine me, they gotta fine Oprah -- the darling of the world," Stern told his listeners on March 19. He included instructions on his Web site how to file a complaint with the FCC.

Winfrey has not commented on the investigation.

Entertainers such as Stern have come under increased scrutiny in recent months following the Feb. 1 Super Bowl halftime performance by Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, during which one of Jackson's breasts was exposed on live TV.

Congress has held several hearings with media executives to clean up radio and television programming, and the FCC has started to levy serious fines against those who break its rules. Clear Channel Communications, the largest owner of radio stations in the country, recently dropped Stern's show from its stations.

On Wednesday, investigative Web site the SmokingGun.com posted a letter from a Republican senator to the head of Viacom, which owns the company that airs Stern's show. The letter revealed that Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., sent a letter to Viacom exec Mel Karmazin outlining Stern's violation of the FCC's strengthened standards during an on-air exchange with Paris Hilton's ex-paramour, Rick Salomon.

In the letter, Brownback suggested that Karmazin did not address the senator's concerns over content on Stern's Feb. 24 broadcast, and said that the Viacom chief's earlier correspondence may be at odds with the media company's stated standards.

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