FCC-CBS Agreement on KUTV Irks PTC

Parents Television Council Rips Consent Decree on Without a Trace Airing

Not surprisingly, the Parents Television Council was not happy with the consent decree entered into between CBS and the Federal Communications Commission to settle the PTC's license challenge to CBS' KUTV Salt Lake City.

PTC president Tim Winter said Monday that the FCC had "shamefully" tried to bury the news by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving. Winter added that the commission "let CBS off the hook not once but twice for airing the same indecent content," and that it "failed miserably to serve the public interest."

In addition to paying $300,000, CBS agreed to take steps to make sure that it complied with the terms of an earlier consent decree in which it had agreed to take remedial action if the FCC issued a notice of apparent liability for an "indecent" broadcast. CBS had not done so after the FCC issued an NAL over a repeat airing of Without a Trace, which led the PTC to challenge its license in Salt Lake City.

Last week's consent decree means that no license challenges can be filed against any of the CBS stations that aired the Without a Trace episode that drew the NAL and its accompanying record $3.6 million fine. It does not wipe away that fine, however, which CBS is challenging.

CBS had said that its failure to take the remedial steps was inadvertent and that it did not think they applied to scripted shows, but instead to unscripted broadcasts, like those of radio shock jock Howard Stern.

“CBS has no credibility when it says its violation of the consent decree was ‘inadvertent,'” Winter said. “The truth is that CBS first ignored broadcast-decency law when airing a teen-orgy scene in the first place, and then again when it ignored the terms of the consent decree its own attorneys negotiated to absolve itself of responsibility for the content it aired.”

He continued, “How can the FCC justify a newly adopted consent decree to replace an ignored consent decree? What assurance does the public, the owners of the broadcast airwaves, have that this new consent decree is any more meaningful than the one already violated by CBS?"

The PTC wanted the FCC to either designate the station's license for hearing, which is essentially a trial to determine whether CBS got to keep the license, or to reopen the thousands of indecency complaints -- including ones on the same Without a Trace episode -- that CBS wiped away with the initial consent decree that cost it $3.6 million.