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Congress Grills Tagliabue, Karmazin Over Broadcast Indecency

Congress Grills Tagliabue, Karmazin Over Broadcast Indecency

In unprecedented back-to-back hearings over broadcast indecency, lawmakers in both houses of Congress grilled FCC commissioners over what the commission will do to reign in broadcasters. Lawmakers made their ire known over broadcast indecency in general and what they say are the FCC’s sparse enforcement efforts. Fines aren’t enough of a deterrent, several members of Congress said.
In a hearing of the House Telecom Subcommittee Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico shook her finger at Viacom President/COO Mel Karmazin and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue over the Super Bowl halftime show. Lawmakers thought the entire half time broadcast, including the ads, was tasteless, not just the one incident in which Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed.
Rep. Wilson said her son thought the broadcast was “nasty.” She said, “If the fourth grade boys at a public elementary school in Alburquerque can tell right from wrong, we need to ask ourselves where you corporate CEOs lost your way.”
“You knew what you were doing. You knew that shock and indecency creates a buzz that moves market share and lines your pockets.”
Tagliabue said the NFL was “deeply embarrassed” by the broadcast and took responsibility for it.
Karmazin said, ”It should not have happened,” referring to the Jackson incident. Yet, he told lawmakers “You’re just wrong” to assume CBS/Viacom knew what was going to happen.
“We are not in a race to the bottom,” said Karmazin, which is why CBS used a 5 minute tape delay at the Grammy Awards, it’s next live telecast after the Super Bowl. Karmazin said he instructed his staff to stop the telecast, and go dark if necessary, if it appeared a participant would cross the indecency threshold.