Viacom's Karmazin: "We'll conform and we'll fight 'em"
April 23, 2004
In a Viacom first quarter conference call yesterday, President/COO Mel Karmazin discussed the company's recent run-ins with the FCC. Karmazin said that Viacom "is obviously concerned any time the government is involved in issues like speech." He added that the company considers the FCC's use of its power to influence programming content "a very slippery slope."
However, Karmazin acknowledged that since Viacom is a station licensee, they must follow the rules. "We are adjusting the programming, we're putting things on delays, we're putting on things to protect us, while at the same time we are aggressively going to take the FCC to court if the opportunity presents itself, because we believe what they are doing is not appropriate."
Karmazin went on to say that according to FCC rules, indecent material is considered to involve "sexual or excretory matter," and Bono's F-bomb at the Golden Globes was neither of these. He said, that, "in the old days when there were seven dirty words that constituted indecency, we knew what the rules were." Karmazin called the Commission "confused" and said, "You can understand how unfair their position is with licensees. We'll conform and we'll fight them."
In other Viacom news, the company announced during the conference call that their first quarter net earnings increased 60%, to $711 million. The Infinity radio division increased its revenue 3% in the first quarter, and project their full-year revenue growth to be between 5-7%. Karmazin stated that "Infinity is the number one biller in seven of the top 10 markets" and said that all 40 markets with Infinity stations are profitable.
The large majority of Viacom's growth, however, came from its cable networks and television divisions.