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Viacom to Pay $3.5 Million FCC Indecency Penalty

Settlement Covers Radio Shows but Not Super Bowl

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WASHINGTON ( -- Viacom has agreed to settle for $3.5 million charges by the Federal Communications Commission that it aired obscene and indecent content on its radio and TV stations.

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While the agreement settled charges of obscene, indecent or profane content in radio shows hosted by Howard Stern, Greg Opie Hughes and Anthony Cumia, the settlement did not require Viacom to identify any specific comment as obscene.

Breast-baring incident
The agreement doesn't cover the 2004 Super Bowl breast-baring incident, for which Viacom faces an additional $550,000 FCC fine. The media giant said it hadn't settled the Super Bowl incident because, "While we deeply regret the incident involving Janet Jackson, we believe that a government fine for an unintentional broadcast is unfair and unwarranted."

Tuesday's agreement does resolve five radio cases in which the FCC has sought fines and some unnamed TV cases for which the FCC had begun inquiries but hadn't yet sought fines.

Sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral
The largest of the radio cases involved a $357,000 FCC fine levied against Infinity Broadcasting's WNEW-FM, New York, for its airing of the "Opie and Anthony" show. In that program on Aug. 15, 2002, Messrs. Hughes and Cumia encouraged listeners to have sex in "risky locations," including St. Patrick's Cathedral. Infinity is owned by Viacom.

The public sex promotion was part of the station's "Sex for Sam" contest, sponsored by the Boston Beer Co. for its Samuel Adams Boston Lager product. The beer company's chairman, Jim Koch, who was in the studios during the promotion, later issued a public apology for his personal involvement, saying it was a "serious mistake, and I regret it."

the show's hosts, Messrs. Hughes and Cumia, were fired as a result of the incident.

Teenage sex references
A second FCC complaint aimed at the "Opie and Anthony" show focused on broadcasts that aired Nov. 15 and Nov. 16, 2000, during a "teen week" promotion that included a song featuring a young girl singing "Daddy, can I come too" in a sexual reference.

The Howard Stern show case involved a $27,500 fine for WKRK-FM, Detroit, which was charged with broadcasting graphic sexual and excretory references and related indecent content. That same station was also fined $27,500 for a Jan. 9, 2002, show in which its hosts were charged with encouraging listeners to discuss explicit and graphic sexual and excretory subjects.

Viacom, in a statement, said the settlement "allows us to move forward and to focus our efforts in this area by serving our viewers and listeners with techniques to safeguard live broadcasts, such as cut-aways, and video and audio delays."

Ratings and v-chips cited
"We also intend to continue our efforts to inform and encourage viewers, especially parents, to use available tools, such as ratings and v-chips, to make informed decisions. Our goal is to provide the wide variety of programming desired by millions of Americans and the tools that give each family the freedom to decide what they will watch in their homes. We believe that consumers, not the government, should decide what they will watch and hear."

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