Brownback: Karmazin Answer Insufficient

Viacom Inc. president Mel Karmazin's defense of a Howard Stern broadcast and Viacom's indecency-enforcement philosophy didn't sit well with Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.).

The Senator's communications director, Brian Hart, today said the tone of the response to Brownback's request for information, as well as Karmazin's testimony several weeks ago before the House Commerce Committee, "seems like 'business as usual' instead of progressing toward upholding existing FCC regulations and working toward cleaning up our public airwaves."

The Senator is drafting yet another letter to the Viacom President that will include specific references to language on the Stern show "in hopes that Mr. Karmazin will explain how this material is not indecent under their own guidelines," said Hart.

Karmazin had apologized to the Senator for some of the broadcast's language and explained Viacom was taking steps to keep indecency off its airwaves. But Karmazin also said the company had determined the broadcast did not meet the FCC's definition of indecency. He added that that definition was a moving target and thus difficult to hit, though he pledged to try. While Clear Channel had pulled Stern from its airwaves following the Feb. 24 broadcast in question. Viacom's Infinity, which distributes the show, did not.

Also unhappy with Karmazin's answer was the Parents Television Council. "The FCC and Congress should interpret this move by Viacom as blatant contempt for parents and families," said PTC President Brent Bozell yesterday.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.