Redstone: Guard Story Not Political

Viacom Inc. chairman Sumner Redstone said Monday that he did not know whether or not CBS wanted John Kerry to win the presidential election, but whether it did or not, he did not believe 60 Minutes' story about President Bush's National Guard service was politically motivated.

If he thought 60 Minutes was trying to win the election for Kerry rather than just having made a mistake by going with a poorly sourced story, he told CNBC, "nobody would survive there."

Redstone says he and CBS Chairman maintain there distance from news department decisions, saying he hears about them when he reads them in the paper.

Redstone says the independent panel investigating the Guard story should be returning its findings soon, after which Viacom will decide what the consequences should be and who will suffer them.

Sumner said putting blame on Dan Rather, who reported the story, was jumping to conclusions.

On the subject of indecency, Redstone said that he thought ABC's controversial Desperate Housewives promo was probably inappropriate--ABC agrees--but that that was a matter of taste, not of law (Redstone is a lawyer). Consumers, not government, he said, should be determining what gets on TV.

Viacom is currently fighting the half-million-dollar fine against its stations for the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, and has defended shock jock Howard Stern.

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.