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Fines are fine, but Bubba still has his bully pulpit

By MARY JO MELONE
Published January 29, 2004

I don't go through life expecting my dreams to come true, but one did Tuesday.

The Federal Communications Commission finally socked Bubba big time.

The agency proposed a fine of just over three-quarters of a million dollars against his employer, Clear Channel Communications. The FCC concluded that Bubba's graphic chatter in 2001 repeatedly violated indecency rules.

My only gripe is, what took the FCC so long?

Deciding was not, as they say, rocket science. All you had to do was listen to Bubba a couple of times and hear the sex jokes, the puke jokes, that business about the castrated pig - all the gutter talk that has for years been his trademark.

Behind the microphone Wednesday, he wailed that the FCC action could be the end of his career.

We should be so lucky.

Bubba was no more disingenuous than Clear Channel where one official said indecency is "simply not our corporate culture."

Then how did Bubba sneak his way into the studio?

He told his listeners Wednesday to contact their congressmen and protest what was being done to him, poor thing.

People called in and said they would.

This is the troubling part. I've often wondered what it says about us that he's the king of Tampa Bay morning radio. He's an embarrassment.

Do we really not care what our kids are exposed to? How can we stand this bully?

That's right. I said bully.

Cross or criticize him, and he'll use his show to trash you unrelentingly.

He's done it to me, and he'll do it again. He did it to Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober after he unsuccessfully prosecuted Bubba in that infamous pig incident, in which he had a pig slaughtered and castrated on the air.

"I've heard it's ongoing to this day," Ober said Wednesday of Bubba's personal attacks. But don't think that Ober cares enough to listen. Other people tell him what Bubba has said.

I know I'm shouting into the wind. The trash trend that began here has proved contagious. You can hear Bubba just about anywhere thanks to satellite radio.

On his Web page, he's saying that this is the most serious issue that his program has ever faced. Congress is fed up with what's become of the airwaves. The FCC says it intends to more vigorously enforce its rules.

But it will be a challenge.

I talked to Robert Corn-Revere, a First Amendment lawyer in Washington, D.C., who explained that Bubba is being cited under rules against indecency, not obscenity, which would be more severe.

The rules against indecency do not apply to media that you have to buy, like cable TV or the internet. This difference could lead Bubba's lawyers to argue that even if the courts uphold the fine, there'll be plenty of indecent material still out there, so that reining him in would be futile. Bubba might also argue that he's not just being censored but - given the difference in the rules as they apply to other media - treated unfairly.

Corn-Revere said Bubba was comparable to that whacko land of worm-eating and cow's blood-swallowing known as reality TV. Amd that stuff is perfectly legal.

"You may think of Bubba as creepy and disgusting," Corn-Revere said. "But it isn't hard-core pornography."

Yep. Bubba's no dummy. He knows just where the line is drawn.

His troubles hit the front page of the Times Wednesday see http://www.sptimes.com/2004/01/28/Tampabay/Bubba_s_brazen_shows_.shtml . Same with the Tampa Tribune. His name is likely being circulated even in the U.S. Capitol, where, on the heels of the announcement of the fines, a hearing on the FCC's indecency rules was held Wednesday.

He's one famous dude.

He may wail - pardon the pun - like a stuck pig, but you can bet Bubba loves every minute, every word, down to every comma, of what is said about him.

The $755,000 is the largest the FCC has ever recommended against a broadcast licensee. Bubba probably considers it a badge of honor, and Clear Channel considers it just part of the cost of doing business, and nothing more.

- You can reach Mary Jo Melone at mjmelone@sptimes.com or 813 226-3402.

[Last modified January 29, 2004, 01:45:51]


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