Viacom Ready to Go to Court Over Indecency

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President and chief operating officer Mel Karmazin made it clear Tuesday that Viacom Inc. is prepared to do battle in the courts to ward off indecency fines.

Free speech is “what America is about,” he told moderator Ken Auletta at a breakfast hosted by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School. “We are fighting in Iraq for freedom. Don’t you think people ought to be able to listen to programming that appeals to them? If it doesn’t appeal to you, change the channel, shut off the radio. Do whatever you want, but if you don’t like the word ‘anal sex’ it doesn’t make it indecent. It may be offensive." There is a legal definition of what’s indecent, he said, and Howard Stern's show doesn't qualify.

The FCC’s indecency enforcement also suffers from its arbitrariness, he said. “If they are confused, you can imagine that broadcasters are confused.”

Indecency enforcement is a “dangerous slippery slope,” said Karmazin. “What’s amazing is that so many journalists have not been that supportive” of broadcasters’ First Amendment rights.