Viacom Agrees to $3.5m Indecency Settlement

25 November 2004

US media giant Viacom has agreed to make peace with government indecency investigators to the tune of $3.5 million (€2.6m, £1.8).

The record settlement and the promise to install time delay systems on live broadcasts will cover several incidents on radio and TV going back as far as 1999, including an expected fine of nearly $1.5m for radio shock jock Howard Stern.

However, Viacom has not offered unconditional surrender. It has vowed to continue its battle against a $550,000 fine imposed by the Federal Communications Commission over the infamous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" during this year's Super Bowl show.

That incident, on the Viacom-owned CBS network, outraged the US moral minority which is lobbying the FCC to crackdown on media companies pushing the envelope of what is acceptable viewing.

Viacom says it will continue to use audio delays and camera cutaways to avoid getting into trouble with the government. But its statement, which announced the FCC agreement, says the company "believes consumers, not the government, should decide what they will watch and hear."

Many broadcasters believe the tougher stance is a violation of their constitutional right to free speech, but those kinds of comments are whispered in order not to distract the FCC from its current review of lucrative TV and radio licences.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff