Moonves: If Fined, Viacom Will Fight

Jul 18, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Even though Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” happened six months ago, Viacom Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer Leslie Moonves once again apologized for the mishap during the summer Television Critics Association press tour, but warned of increased government scrutiny of free speech.

“While we share the public’s outrage over the Super Bowl incident, we hope this rush to judgment settles down,” he said. “A media free of government censorship is essential to our democracy and our business. Some of the developments to come out of Washington are coming dangerously close to abridging our First Amendment rights. We’re confident the public’s appetite for great content, shows that provoke laughter, outrage, thought, will always win out in this kind of battle.”

Mr. Moonves specifically addressed the potential threat of a Federal Communications Commission fine for individual CBS stations or affiliates over the Super Bowl incident, and said the network would not just sit back and take a governmental hit.

“We think it is grossly unfair that anybody be fined for that,” he said. “Obviously we have taken some precautions. Now we have a five-second delay on most of our live events. We’re obviously not going to do it in news or in sports, but we think the idea of a fine for that is patently ridiculous. We are going to take that to the court if it happens.”

Mr. Moonves addressed his recent promotion within Viacom, now that his duties have expanded beyond the CBS broadcast networks and station groups to the entire Viacom universe, which includes everything from cable networks to outdoor advertising.

“My new job presents a lot of very exciting new opportunities for me,” he said. “CBS, UPN, King World, Paramount and Infinity all have these things in common: great programming assets, and terrific promotional platforms. We’re working hard to make sure all the pieces work hand in hand with each other-radio, billboards, bus sides, on-air promotions. I can’t believe I’m talking about the sides of buses, but I am.”

But Mr. Moonves stressed that just because the opportunity to promote on cross platforms exists doesn’t mean the main focus should be anything other than making programming viewers want to watch.

“There’s no financial incentive to the vertical integration of bad or unsuccessful content,” Mr. Moonves said.