Viacom Fined $3.5M for Indecency

Viacom Inc. has agreed to pay the federal government $3.5 million to settle broadcast-indecency violations, and the media giant also agreed to install delay systems at its CBS and UPN television stations to help guard against further violations during live telecasts.

The settlement Tuesday with the Federal Communications Commission did not cover the $550,000 fine Viacom received for airing on CBS the Super Bowl halftime show in which singer Janet Jackson exposed her right breast. Viacom is fighting that FCC ruling.

Among other things, Viacom’s consent decree, approved by a unanimous FCC, requires that within 30 days, the company will install delay equipment in all TV and radio stations to edit “problematic live programming”; train on-air talent about FCC indecency rules; and suspend and perhaps fire employees whose actions trigger future FCC fines.

In another ruling, the FCC voted 3-2 that an episode of Keen Eddie aired by Fox Broadcasting Co. was not indecent. The FCC received complaints about a June 10, 2003, episode that involved the hiring of a prostitute to arouse a horse in order to extract semen for sale on the black market.

FCC members Michael Copps and Kevin Martin dissented. Martin said the FCC absolved the Keen Eddie episode because “the prostitute is `never seen actually touching’ the horse.” He added, “Despite my colleagues’ assurance that there appeared to be a safe distance between the prostitute and the horse, I remain uncomfortable.”

The agency also dismissed complaints against episodes of NBC show Coupling, ruling that the show’s extended use of sexual dialogue did not cross the line.

And complaints were denied against two episodes of The WB Television Network’s Off Centre, with the FCC finding that reference to excretory and sexual matters did not run afoul of its indecency rules.

"There have been rumors that these rulings have been ready for quite some time, and yet the FCC chairman has elected to wait until it’s certain that they will receive the least amount of media coverage," Parents Television Council president L. Brent Bozell said in a prepared statement."The chairman knew how unpopular these rulings would be: When the Keen Eddie dialogue was read before a Senate hearing, senators were openly shocked and gasped," he added. "The FCC has attempted to hide this decision behind the holiday weekend.We are not going to allow that to happen.We will expose the FCC’s decisions over the coming weeks."