CBS may fight indecency fine

July 20, 2004|By Maria Elena Fernandez | Maria Elena Fernandez,LOS ANGELES TIMES

CBS may be riding high on its third consecutive season as the most-watched network and enjoying a summer of success, but its executives have a cloud hanging over their heads: more than a half-million dollars' worth of fallout from Janet Jackson's Super Bowl flash.

Earlier this month, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell proposed fining each of the 19 TV stations directly owned and operated by CBS $27,500 for airing the two-second breast-baring incident. On Sunday, addressing a gathering of television critics in California, Leslie Moonves, co-president of Viacom Inc. who oversees CBS, said he is leaning toward fighting the FCC in court if the network's local stations are fined.

"Some of the developments coming out of Washington are coming dangerously close to infringing on First Amendment rights," Moonves said. "We'll take it to court if that happens."

It will be several weeks before Powell's proposal is acted on.

Moonves also oversees management of Infinity Radio - whose star, Howard Stern, has also been fined - and MTV, the Viacom unit that produced the controversial halftime show in Houston.

"Whether you're talking about CBS, MTV or Howard Stern, we feel this is a dangerous issue and something we're studying very carefully," Moonves said.

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