NEW YORK –Howard Stern is about to get birds-and-bees education on what’s indecent — whether he likes it or not.
Wiping the slate mostly clean, Viacom on Tuesday agreed to pay the FCC a record $3.5 million to settle most outstanding indecency claims and related inquiries. Conglom has also agreed to require on-air talent and employees to attend a training sesh on broadcast indecency laws post-haste. If the Federal Communications Commission issues a proposed fine to a Viacom-owned TV or radio station, those involved will be automatically suspended, while Viacom conducts an investigation.
Viacom’s $3.5 million settlement excludes the pending $550,000 against CBS and its stations for Janet Jackson’s breast-baring during the Super Bowl halftime show. Conglom continues to fight that fine.
Much of the FCC’s angst regarding Viacom involves Stern’s morning radio show, produced by Viacom-owned Infinity Radio. Stern, who is on vacation this week, is openly disdainful of FCC topper Michael Powell as well as his higher-ups at Viacom.
At the end of 2005, he’s bolting to Sirius Satellite Radio, where he won’t be subject to FCC regulations. Last week, former Viacom chief operating officer and Stern’s longtime defender Mel Karmazin joined Sirius as CEO, fueling rumors Stern could leave Infinity even earlier.
Viacom’s bill is well above the record $1.75 million radio giant Clear Channel paid earlier this year to resolve indecency claims for episodes of Stern’s show carried on its stations.
At that time, Infinity and Viacom stood staunchly behind Stern. Some of that support now seems to be waning in the wake of the news Stern will be leaving for Sirius.
In a statement, Viacom said the wide-ranging, $3.5 million consent decree with the FCC “allows us to move forward and to focus our efforts in this area by serving our viewers and listeners.”
“We have now resolved all outstanding matters before the FCC related to indecency except for the Super Bowl. While we deeply regret the incident involving Janet Jackson, we believe that a government fine for an unintentional broadcast is unfair and unwarranted, and we are challenging that decision,” Viacom said in a statement.
Also Tuesday, the FCC proposed fining WQAM-AM Miami $55,000 for an episode of the “Scott Ferrall Show” in which Ferrall threatened a caller with a prison term, during which the caller would be sodomized and his wife sexually assaulted.
However, agency declined to find that certain episodes of NBC’s “Coupling,” Fox’s “Off Centre” and the WB’s “Keen Eddie” were indecent. Complaints were filed against certain stations carrying the programs.