Karmazin Says FCC Confused About Indecency
April 28, 2004

Mel Karmazin continued to poke holes in FCC indecency enforcement efforts at a Tuesday morning breakfast in New York, expanding his criticism to include Republicans and journalists.  Billed as “A Conversation With Mel Karmazin,” the wide-ranging Q&A was conducted by New Yorker media columnist Ken Auletta and sponsored by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Commuincations. 


Typically blunt and unsparing, the Viacom COO said there’s a great deal of confusion at the Commission about what exactly is indecent (reports Ad Age). “We think it is a very slippery slope,” Karmazin said. To ensure that it conforms with the indecency statute, Karmazin said Viacom lawyers regularly listen to The Howard Stern Show. “We’re very clear we don’t broadcast indecency.” Karamzin added.


Infinity is challenging the Commission over a March 18 proposed indecency fine against WKRK/Detroit for a July 2001 broadcast where Stern and his crew defined phrases like “blumpkin,” “balloon knot,” and “Nasty Sanchez.” The Commission has also fined Clear Channel $495,000 for a Stern show that included references to anal sex.


Asked by Auletta if he condoned Stern discussing anal sex, Karmazin invoked the First Amendment, saying America is a country where people are free to say what they want. “We are fighting in Iraq for freedom,” Karmazin said. “If it doesn’t appeal to you, shut the radio off. Just because you don’t like the words ‘anal sex,’ doesn’t make it indecent.”


Echoing earlier remarks, Karmazin said, “As long as Howard Stern conforms with our standards, we’ll stand by him.”


The way he sees it, Republicans are no less regulatory-minded than Democrats these days. And he’d like to see more support from the media. “So many journalists have not been supportive of the First Amendment,” Karmazin said.


Indecency wasn’t the only thing on Mel’s mind.  He’d still like to buy CNN:  “We could add more value than Time Warner because of our broadcast division.” And he sees the Internet growing from its current two percent share of the total ad market to seven percent in the next five-six years.

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