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CBS Pays $300K to Settle KUTV License Challenge

CBS agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a license challenge to KUTV (TV) Salt Lake City over its airing of Without a Trace.

CBS admitted that it had “inadvertently” failed to comply with an earlier consent decree wiping out a raft of indecency complaints, including those against the same episode of the CBS drama. According to that decree, CBS was supposed to launch an investigation and suspend employees if the Federal Communications Commission concluded that a broadcast had been indecent -- which it did, to the tune of a record $3.6 million fine against CBS’ owned stations for the repeat airing of Without a Trace.

The company has now promised to take steps going forward to ensure compliance with the original consent decree.

The consent decree entered into with the FCC does not wipe away that proposed $3.6 million fine. It applies to KUTV and to a license challenge filed by the Parents Television Council, as well as to any other CBS stations that similarly did not take remedial actions.

That decree paves the way for CBS to sell KUTV and a number of other stations to Cerberus Capital. In fact, the FCC took care of three CBS-related issues at once Friday, announcing the consent decree, the station’s license renewal and its approval of the sale of a bunch of CBS-related radio stations to Entercom Communications.

CBS initially contended that it already did enough in response to the commission’s ojbection and proposed fine.

CBS was responding to questions posed by the FCC in June after the PTC challenged the license of KUTV in August 2006. The PTC was mad that CBS aired the episode only weeks after signing the consent decree that included admission that some of the shows it had aired -- CBS did not specify -- had been indecent.

A PTC spokeswoman was unavailable for comment, but the group had asked the FCC to reopen thousands of indecency complaints settled in the original consent decree, or to designate the station's license for hearing.

CBS still has two outstanding indecency issues: the record $3.6 million Without a Trace fine, which it is challenging with the FCC, and the Janet Jackson-Super Bowl incident, which it is challenging in federal court.

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.