The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, July 19, 2004
 

Viacom's Jackson tit fine - now the indecency showdown?


Viacom boss Les Moonves is sounding off in anticipation of an FCC decision on the Super Bowl errant mammary caper: the staff recommendation is for all the twenty CBS owned-and-operated stations which featured the soggy beige wurst to be hit with the maximum $27,500 fine.

It's not as if Viacom have a shortage of opportunities to do everyone a favour and make a Federal case out of FCC indecency censorship: it owns Infinity Broadcasting, which originates the Howard Stern show.

The hope, oft expressed here, is that the basic law on broadcast indecency - 18 USC 1464 - will be challenged as infringing the First Amendment. The FCC getting Moonves as mad as hell with more fines might just get him to go for this, the nuclear option [1].

Because, apart from creating apoplexy amongst the Comstocks - a clear majority in Congress, leave aside the voters, there'd be the awful possibility that he might win. The pretext of FCC indecency censorship for their usual cowardice thus removed, the management of the networks would find their position more than a trifle - exposed.

  1. I suspect that CBS and Viacom might well have other grounds to challenge the Super Bowl fines, if the FCC eventually follow its staff recommendations: on whether the slippage was within the legal definition of indecent (the fact that the nipple was covered might be important: the exposure of mere 'cleavage' - as often seen in costume dramas on Masterpiece Theatre - is evidently not within the definition); or on the unfairness of fining CBS O&O stations, but not affiliates which ran the Super Bowl broadcast.

    Clearly, that sort of limited challenge would not make much of a dent in the FCC censorship regime.

    (The fact that Viacom owns Stern's broadcaster would obviously make a fundamental challenge to the censorship regime more attractive to the company.)



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