Infinity Broadcasting East and the talent agency representing Howard Stern and his radio show have filed a lawsuit seeking more than $10 million from Clear Channel Communications Inc.

WASHINGTON -- Infinity Broadcasting East and the talent agency representing Howard Stern and his radio show have filed a lawsuit seeking more than $10 million from Clear Channel Communications Inc. (CCC).

The complaint was filed June 30 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by One Twelve Inc., which provides Stern's services, and Infinity, the Federal Communications Commission licensee of WXRK, the New York radio station where the show is produced. New York-based One Twelve is an offshoot of the Don Buchwald & Associates talent agency.

The two companies charge that CCC, the nation's largest radio-station owner, broke contracts they had to air the Stern program in six cities and therefore violated license agreements.

One Twelve and Infinity accuse CCC of failing to notify them that the show was being dropped, which the plaintiffs say was required under the terms of the contracts. They also say they are owed license fees.

The complaint also takes a swing at CCC chairman/CEO Lowry Mays for allegedly violating the company's licensing terms in order to pacify and win favor with federal lawmakers.

"On February 25, 2004," says the complaint, "one day before its CEO was to testify before Congress regarding proposed legislation that would have increased penalties for 'indecent' broadcasts, Clear Channel, without any prior notice to or consultation with Licensors, publicly announced that it would exercise a right it did not have under the License agreements: indefinitely to 'suspend' broadcasts of the Programs."

The terms are contained in six license agreements for the stations, dated between May 2001 and September 2002.

The action came the same day Infinity Broadcasting East parent company Infinity Broadcasting Inc. announced that it would be adding the Stern show at nine affiliate stations.

CCC, facing complaints from federal regulators for indecent programming of on-air talent, dropped Stern in February from stations in Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York and Kentucky.

"Howard Stern is the only one who has broken the law," Andy Levin, CCC executive VP/chief legal officer says in a statement. "His contract explicitly requires his show comply with all FCC rules and regulations. On several occasions, it clearly did not. Clear Channel Radio had both a legal right and an obligation to stop broadcasting it."

Last month, CCC admitted to airing indecent material and agreed to pay a record $1.75 million penalty to settle all existing complaints. The company also agreed to take steps to prevent further incidents of indecency.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs call for damages "in an amount to be determined, but not less than $10 million; attorneys' fees and expenses; a declaration that "Plaintiffs' terminations of the License Agreements are valid, that all rights thereunder have reverted to Plaintiffs"; fulfillment by CCC of its "post-termination obligations"; and "further relief as the Court deems just and proper."

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