WASHINGTON — Having been recently slapped by a federal appellate court for overstepping itself on indecency policy, the Federal Communications Commission still has ways of exercising its authority, this time by holding up a license renewal for a CBS-owned station over an episode of “Without a Trace.”
The agency has sent a letter to the Eye demanding to know if the net violated terms of a consent agreement it entered into regarding prohibitions against airing indecent programming.
Case involves a 2003 episode of “Without a Trace,” which drew indecency fines from the agency. In a November 2004 deal, the FCC agreed to drop the fines in exchange for CBS’ promise to investigate any future instances of its employees or subsidiaries airing indecent material, including dismissal if warranted.
The consent decree did not include an acknowledgement from CBS that the episode violated federal indecency regs. The following month, CBS rebroadcast the same episode, prompting an outcry and an e-mail campaign from Parents Television Council watchdog org.
KUTV, a CBS O&O in Salt Lake City, recently submitted application for license renewal. On Wednesday, the FCC sent a letter to the Eye indicating that renewal would not be processed before CBS explained whether it had carried out an internal investigation, per the consent decree, and, if not, why.
“Your responses should be in the form of an amendment to the above-captioned license renewal application referencing each of the numbered questions above,” the FCC wrote. “We direct CBS and/or KUTV to support its responses with an affidavit or declaration under penalty of perjury, signed and dated by an authorized officer of either CBS or KUTV with personal knowledge of the representations provided in the response, verifying the truth and accuracy of the information therein.”
“CBS will respond promptly and comprehensively to the FCC’s inquiry and make clear why we believe we have lived up to the consent decree,” the Eye said in a statement. “Moreover, when the commission finalizes its decision on the ‘Without a Trace’ episode in question, we are confident our position will be affirmed that the episode was not indecent.”