Viacom Inc.’s indecency showdown with the Federal Communications Commission could get under way as soon as next week.
An FCC source said Wednesday that the commission will sign off on a proposed fine for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction at the hand of Justin Timberlake -- expected to be $550,000 -- and that it will be formally unveiled no later than the week of Aug. 30.
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau recommended the fine to the commissioners in July. Also in July, Viacom Co-President Les Moonves vowed to fight the FCC in court if the FCC orders the company's CBS-owned TV stations to pay up for allegedly violating indecency restrictions.
Viacom has been careful to separate its own in-house crackdown on content from the legal issue of whether what it broadcast is or is not indecent, with former Viacom President Mel Karmazin telling Congress not long after the incident that indecency was for the company's lawyers to determine.
In the case of Howard Stern, the company has said it did not feel the shock jock was indecent and clearly feels the same about the Jackson reveal. Moonves in July told TV critics any fine would be “patently ridiculous.”
Many First Amendment lawyers are hoping Moonves keeps his pledge to fight in court because they believe the case would lead to a Supreme Court review of all the FCC’s indecency restrictions.
They think such a review would likely result in looser, not tighter, restrictions.