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Viacom/Infinity, FCC Settle Several Indecency Cases for $3.5 Million

Viacom/Infinity, FCC Settle Several Indecency Cases for $3.5 Million

The FCC and Viacom/Infinity and its subsidiaries have entered into a $3.5 million consent decree to resolve indecency investigations. The action resolves investigations into whether Viacom/Infinity and non-Viacom-owned affiliates of the CBS Television Network and UPN aired indecent programming.
As part of the agreement, Viacom admits some of the programming was indecent and it implements a company-wide zero-tolerance for indecency plan. Viacom/Infinity pledged to install delay equipment at all of its stations and make sure employees know the FCC’s indecency and obscenity rules. Should the commission begin a future investigation against one of the Viacom/Infinity stations for indecency, the employees involved would be suspended and taken off the air pending the results of an internal investigation. A fine could lead to termination of involved employees.
The agreement resolves actions regarding 16 Infinity stations, including the proposed $357,000 fine against former WNEW/New York for the sex in St. Patrick’s Cathedral bit on Opie & Anthony, who have now moved to XM Satellite Radio. The fines stem from cases opened in 2002 to this year.
It specifically excludes the Super Bowl halftime show. Viacom is fighting a $550,000 fine in that case.
“This consent decree allows us to move forward and to focus our efforts in this area by serving our viewers and listeners with techniques to safeguard live broadcasts, such as cutaways and video and audio delays,” Vicacom said in a statement.
Clear Channel and Emmis previously reached similar agreements with the commission over indecency for $1.75 million and $300,000 respectively.
Commissioner Kevin Martin said previous consent agreements signed with Clear Channel and Emmis required “more concrete actions” from the company to deter future occurrences. He’s concerned this agreement may be less of a deterrent and, that the agency may be treating other companies unfairly by requiring less of Viacom.
Commissioner Michael Copps is worried about the effect of the settlement on the agency’s license renewal process.
“The totality of a broadcasters’ record is pertinent and should be considered when licenses are renewed. Today’s decision takes an entire part of the record off the table.”