Karmazin At House Hearing: We Need An Indecency Roadmap
February 11, 2004
Speaking at a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday morning, Viacom President/COO Mel Karmazin implored lawmakers and the FCC to give broadcasters a more precise definition of what constitutes broadcast indecency. Contrite, poised and articulate, Karmazin told Fred Upton's subcommittee on telecommunications that increased fines aren't the way to fix the problem. "The problem is the current vagueness of how indecency is defined," he said. The sole broadcaster to appear at the highly charged hearing said he hopes the FCC will undertake a rulemaking to clearly define what is and what isn't indecent, and whether or not community standards in Las Vegas are the same as they are in Salt Lake City. Karmazin closed his prepared statement by pledging to take every action to follow whatever rules Congress and the FCC enact.
During a lengthy grilling by lawmakers, Karmazin was asked why Infinity fired Opie & Anthony for the Sex In St. Pat's stunt but hasn't paid the $357,000 fine the Commission imposed for it. "That we fired someone doesn't mean they violated the indecency standard," Karmazin said. Acknowledging that the stunt was objectionable, offensive, and shouldn't have aired, Karmazin said Infinity lawyers "have assured me that what we aired wasn't indecent." Later, when asked if Viacom-owned stations would drop a syndicated show if it violated local community standards, Karmazin said he has instructed affiliates to edit syndicated shows if they occasionally cross the line.