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CBS Affils to Seek Content Assurances, Grammy Tape-Delay

The CBS affiliate board is expected to ask the network to make sure that next Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast will be free of musical strip shows or anything else that could raise the blood pressure at the Federal Communications Commission or Congress.

"Given the express intent of those at the FCC and on Capitol Hill to revisit indecency and forfeitures," said CBS affilate board chairman Bob Lee, "You’d think CBS would have guarded against that."

Lee pointed out that his older-skewing audience is "a little offput by MTV stuff in the first place." Viacom denied that it knew of the stunt in advance. Lee certainly hopes that is the case. If this is something anyone in CBS knew about and condoned, it would be very disturbing."

Lee said his phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from concerned affiliates in the wake of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime display, in which Justin Timberlake tore away a portion of her costume to reveal her right breast, with a strategically-placed metallic star that provided scant coverage. CBS cut away quickly, but the damage had been done.

Lee said he has been trying to contact Peter Schruth, president of affiliate relations, for CBS, to register the affiliates’ "deeply held sense that we need to guard against this on the Grammys Sunday night."

A CBS spokesman said the Grammys "have had and will have a delay."

An affiliate board conference call is scheduled for tomorrow and Lee is looking for assurances against inappropriate content at that time.

Ed Piette, VP and general manager of CBS O&O WCCO-TV Minneapolis, who believes his CBS bosses when they say they knew nothing about the stunt, agreed that a delay is needed. "If you are going to let people go up there and be spontaneous, I don’t think we have a choice but to put a delay on it."

Fox and NBC were both burned by awards show spontaneity involving the F-word, and both have since instituted a delay policy. ABC currently has a five-second delay on all its award shows except the upcoming Academy Awards and it is currently in discussions with the Academy about a delay there as well.

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.