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In the Loop

Gassed by Fartman

Newly crowned Viacom Co-COO Les Moonves is Howard Stern's new boss. That's a tough job for anyone, but Moonves has it especially bad. Stern's gushing affection for exiting Viacom President Mel Karmazin is both legendary and rare. Yet it's understandable: The exec was a human shield for Stern during many indecency wars, past and present.

More problematic is Stern's very public dislike of Moonves.

When CBS subsidiary King World canceled Stern's Saturday-night TV program in 2001, the shock jock opened fire. "Les Moonves is a snake, and nobody should do business with him," Stern said at the time. "I'm going to the pet store. I'm buying a snake, and I'm going to name him Les Moonves. Les the creep."

Last year, the "King of All Media" roasted Moonves for cutting a deal with reality producer Mike Fleiss.

"I've been listening to this crap all day," Stern said, alleging that Fleiss stole the Are You Hot?
series concept from him. "My agent was on the phone, saying, 'Can you believe Les?'"

Stern also accused Moonves of burying Kane, a proposed TV series that Stern was scheduled to executive-produce.

After Karmazin's resignation last week, Stern grumbled to listeners about his new circumstances. "I have a contract, and, if I walk out, they'll sue [me]," he said. "I can't leave right today, but, believe me, I'll be gone in a month."

Asked about the future of Infinity jocks like Stern, Moonves responded, "It will be an important part of my job to make these guys happy, and I intend to do that."

Good luck, Les. A clock that is posted on is counting down the 19 months remaining on Stern's contract.

At Least It Wasn't Howard...

It didn't take long for NBC Universal Television President Jeff Zucker to find some way to exploit rival Leslie Moonves' promotion last week to his own ends. Learning that Moonves will now oversee Viacom Outdoor—in addition to CBS, UPN, Paramount Television, and Infinity Radio—Zucker called and said, "Les, this is Jeff. I want to buy a billboard for Joey," NBC's upcoming Friends
spinoff. Even Moonves had to laugh.

Ripped From the Headlines

A character based on Howard Stern will appear in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
In it, the mother of a rape victim blames the crime on allegedly inflammatory remarks made by a popular radio shock jock. (The character will be played by a famous comic to be announced.) The show will explore the rights of those who express their views over public airwaves. "We're doing the episode because my feeling is that the parental advisory on shows indicate whether or not they are appropriate for children," says executive producer Neal Baer. "Parents have the responsibility to make that decision." Baer discourages govermental regulation of sensitive content, be it a wardrobe malfunction or graphic depections of the war in Iraq. Says Baer, "I don't want to be protected."

Backing Off Stern

Looks like Howard Stern will be taking less heat from one of his most outspoken Washington critics. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) is a frequent media critic and co-sponsor of the FCC indecency-crackdown bill in the Senate. He wrote Viacom twice asking President Mel Karmazin to explain why it didn't yank Stern as indecent when Clear Channel did. Karmazin's first answer, that Stern wasn't indecent, didn't sit well with the senator. Viacom called that sufficient, and Karmazin did not respond the second time around.

Now that Karmazin has left the building, does that mean Brownback will renew his attacks on Stern with successors Les Moonves and Tom Freston? Apparently not. Says a senior staffer, "We have no plans to elicit any new pen pals from Viacom at this time."