- The Washington Times - Monday, May 3, 2004

The Federal Communications Commission has ignored the racy antics on Spanish-language radio during its crackdown on broadcasting material that the agency deems indecent.

Since 2001, the FCC has proposed $71,400 in fines against three Spanish-language radio stations and one TV station for airing material that violates its rules against indecency. It proposed the most recent fine on Dec. 13, 2002.

During the first four months of 2004, the FCC has proposed six indecency fines totaling $1.5 million, all against English-language broadcasters. All but $27,500 of these fines were aimed at radio stations that air programs such as “The Howard Stern Show,” which tend to feature sexually suggestive conversations and comedy bits.

“Spanish-language radio has gone way beyond Howard Stern. Some of these guys do and say things that would embarrass Howard Stern,” said Alex Nogales, president and chief executive of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a Los Angeles group that seeks to improve the image of Hispanics in the United States.

Lisa Navarrete, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights group, said Spanish-language radio deserves the same scrutiny as its English-language counterpart.

“If you’re going to be in the business of looking at what is and what is not indecent, no one should be singled out,” she said.

An FCC spokeswoman declined comment. Executives at several Hispanic broadcasting companies also declined comment or could not be reached.

Spanish-language broadcasters have not entirely escaped the FCC’s scrutiny: Last week, the agency proposed a $4,000 fine against a Miami station that aired a crank call by two disc jockeys to Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The disc jockeys did not violate the FCC’s decency standards, but they did break its rules against airing a telephone conversation without the permission of the person being called.

The Hispanic population in the United States swelled by 58 percent in the 1990s, making it the nation’s largest minority group, census data show. Spanish-language radio stations have become common in most big cities. Four are in the Washington area.

The stations often feature rollicking “morning zoo” shows. The language on these programs is often too crude for the airwaves, Mr. Nogales said.

Ms. Navarrete said the FCC lacks the manpower to investigate complaints about these programs. The agency has one Spanish speaker among its 20 staff investigators, although it has the power to hire outside translators to help it review complaints against Spanish-language programs.

“We’re very concerned about the lack of Latino representation within the FCC,” she said.

Rep. Peter Deutsch, a Florida Democrat who represents the heavily Hispanic Miami area, told newspapers in February that “the bottom line is that the FCC just doesn’t have enough people to translate Spanish.”

A spokesman said Mr. Deutsch had no further comment.

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