Indecent Viacom Employees Face Immediate Suspension
November 24, 2004

While yesterday's $3.5 million agreement between the FCC and Viacom covered any outstanding past infractions (except the Janet Jackson-induced Nipplegate), it also sent warning to Viacom employees that indecent behavior will not be tolerated and any offending party will be suspended immediately.

Contained within the Consent Decree was a provision stating "if a Viacom-owned station receives a Notice of Apparent Liability for a broadcast occurring after the Effective Date which relates to violation of the Indecency Laws, all employees airing and/or materially participating in the decision to air such material will be suspended and an investigation will immediately be undertaken by Viacom."

The Effective Date is December 23, 2004.

So, in effect, all it takes is for one NAL to be issued and a Viacom employee, such as Howard Stern, has to be taken off the air immediately while the investigation occurs. The parties involved will also be required to undergo training "with respect to the Indecency Laws and satisfy station management that they understand such laws before resuming their duties." Upon their return the employee "will be subjected to delay and will be monitored by editors for content purposes." Should a Notice of Apparent Liability lead to a Forfeiture Order, all participating offenders in the decision to air the material deemed indecent by the FCC would be "subject to further disciplinary action up to and including termination."

Could this provision knock Stern off the airwaves in the very near future? Indecency crusader Jack Thompson has at least a dozen complaints into the FCC regarding Stern broadcasts since his August 16 return to the airwaves in Miami on WQAM-AM. Those complaints were not covered in yesterday's Consent Decree since WQAM is owned by Beasley Broadcasting, not Viacom. But if a NAL were to be issued regarding Stern that involved a Viacom property, it would mean he would be suspended from the airwaves and be sidelined until the investigation was concluded. How long would that investigation take?  Viacom could potentially drag their heels, keep Howard off the air and run "Best Of" until the end of 2005 if they wanted to, effectively neutralizing Stern until he heads to Sirius Satellite Radio.

 




 
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