During Thursday's Q1 conference call, Viacom President/COO Mel Karmazin vowed to haul the FCC into court over indecency -- if the opportunity ever availed itself. One day later, Karmazin took what could be the first step in that long legal process by contesting the Commission's $27,500 proposed fine against Howard Stern.
The challenge comes in the form of Infinity's formal response to a March 18 Notice Of Apparent Liability served on WKRK/Detroit for a July 26, 2001 Stern show.
When Infinity responded to the Commission's initial Letter Of Inquiry, it maintained that the cited material wasn't actionably indecent and didn't contain any description or depiction of sexual or excretory organs or activities in a patently offensive manner. Infinity also argued that the Commission's generic indecency definition is unconstitutional.
Now, in a 64-page filing, the company claims that the Commission has "abruptly and systematically altered almost every aspect of indecency enforcement in ways that dramatically undermine the lawfulness of the overall scheme."
The nearly three-year-old broadcast that netted Stern's first indecency fine since June '98 involved Howard and company defining terms like "blumpkin," "balloon knot" and "the David Copperfield."
Should the FCC move forward with the fine, Infinity can appeal to a federal court, an avenue Karmazin and Stern have said they'd like to pursue. Last Monday (4/19), Infinity was part of a broad coalition of broadcasters, artists, public interest and professional organizations that asked the Commission to reconsider the Golden Globe Awards decision that declared Bono's F-bomb-as-an-adjective both indecent and profane.
Elsewhere on the indecency front, Clear Channel has asked the FCC to reduce the $247,500 fine pending against it for a March 2003 Elliot In The Morning broadcast. In its request, the company notes how it has fired Howard Stern and Bubba The Love Sponge and put strict new decency guidelines in place.