FCC staff propose $550,000 fine over Janet Jackson's breast. All 20 of the Viacom-owned CBS stations would have to cough up $27,500 each

By Gary Susman
Updated June 30, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Five months after Janet Jackson’s notorious wardrobe malfunction, the bill may be coming due, in the form of a fine levied by the Federal Communications Commission against media giant Viacom, whose MTV produced the notorious Super Bowl halftime show, and whose CBS aired it. Reuters cites a source close to the deliberations as saying that FCC staffers will recommend to the commission that Viacom face a fine of $550,000. That’s $27,500 (the maximum current fine) to be coughed up by each of the 20 CBS-owned stations that broadcast the glimpse of Jackson’s errant breast. The staff did not recommend fining CBS affiliate stations owned by outsiders, the source told Reuters. (It was not clear whether the FCC would accept the recommendation, or how soon the commission would act upon it.)

One sign that Viacom is standing up to the FCC and its increased post-Janet scrutiny of potentially offensive broadcast content came Wednesday morning during a press conference by Howard Stern, who announced during his morning show that Viacom-owned Infinity, the radio company that syndicates his show, was adding it to nine stations. That includes stations in five of the six markets from which Stern was dropped earlier this year by Clear Channel in response to post-Janet complaints of indecency on a Stern broadcast. Clear Channel’s scrapping of Stern did not save it from a record $1.75 million FCC fine, over indecency complaints regarding Stern and other radio talkers, that the company agreed to pay earlier this month. ”The FCC is on a witch hunt,” Stern said Wednesday, a situation that ”has a chilling effect on all broadcasters.” Despite that chill, Infinity president Joel Hollander had warm words for Stern, saying that his listeners comprise “one of the most loyal audiences in radio, who will no doubt embrace his return.”