Karmazin Says Stern Not Indecent
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/16/2004 12:27:00 PM
Viacom Inc. president Mel Karmazin Tuesday defended Infinity's Feb. 24 broadcast of Howard Stern's show, saying that it was not indecent.
He apologized to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) for an offensive racist remark made by a caller to the show, but said that, too, "does not fall within the ambit of the indecency definition."
Clear Channel, by contrast, had very publicly yanked the same broadcast--which reportedly featured references to anal sex and use of the N-word--both because it feared the broadcast was indecent and because it said the material was inappropriate for its air. That move prompted Brownback to write Karmazin asking him to explain why Infinity had not taken the same steps. CBS hand-delivered the response to Brownback.
At the time of Clear Channels' move, company President John Hogan, on the eve of an appearance before Congress to talk about indecency, described the broadcast as vulgar, offensive and insulting.
For his part, Karmazin told Brownback that "our editors made the good faith judgment that the references which aired were not graphic, patently offensive descriptions of sexual activity."
Karmazin told Brownback that the company was taking "great precautions" to make sure indecent material did not make it to air. In fact, he said a delay was in place, and used, for the Feb. 24 broadcast.
But Karmazin also said the FCC wasn't making it easy. "Multiple course corrections by the FCC in the context of adjudicatory proceedings typically involving a single party and taking months, or even years, of deliberation underscore the difficult task facing broadcasters." Nonetheless, he said, "we are doing our best to comply with the vague, generic indecency standard and the FCC's often-conflicting rulings in this sensitive First Amendment Area." Viacom and Stern got some support from the Senate last week, where several Democrats suggested the Stern show was being targeted not for indecency but for his criticism of the Bush administration. Clear Channel called that "ludicrous."
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