The Daily Stern: FCC assignment desk

The Daily Stern: FCC assignment desk

: I put in a Freedom of Information request to the FCC asking to get the whopping 159 complaints that led them to decree that Fox had corrupted America by suggesting sex on its Married by America. I have heard no reply.

I’m serious, FCC. I’m a reporter, too. I want to see those “complaints.” I expect I’ll find more work by Xerox than by the citizenry.

On Stern this morning, he raised another good story: Michael Powell said during Stern’s phone call with him that the FCC had investigated and found Viacom to be in some conspiracy with Janet Jackson to expose her breast. But Janet Jackson said she did this on her own. So why is Viacom being fined and not Jackson? If there is no proof of this conspiracy, then the FCC’s fine is clearly a punitive political action, not the result of regulatory investigation.

So a good reporter should file an FOI request for the investigation files on the Janet Jackson case.

And while you’re at it, file an FOI request for the complaints against Stern and Jackson. Here I know you will find that they come from only a few sources with a lot of Xeroxing. It’s not the people standing up as one — hell, it’s a tiny proportion of people in any case — but instead an organized pressure group.

Is it government’s job to respond to every pressure group with a Xerox machine? If so, the libertarians should be about ready to dismantle government by now. And Area 51 should be opened. And we’d be out of the UN….

These are good stories. Any real reporters out there?

  • Angelos

    Reporters? Sure. But they’re waiting for the 4th version of how the explosives went missing, after the first 3 were debunked. Whatever Ken and Scotty and Karl say, they report.
    If you’re looking for journalists, however, don’t hold your breath.

  • One note.
    Its a FOIA request, not an FOI request. Government acronyms are so picky . . . ;) Gotta add the word “act” on the end there. That, and you’ll get more information by searching for FOIA. (Pronounced Fo-ya).
    (I’m a government employee with a clearence who sees these things hit the office occasionaly.)

  • Evan

    Please. MTV never knew what Jackson was going to do? Right.
    When they hyped the halftime show stating that there would be ‘shocking moments’ in Jackson’s performance, they were really referring to the surprise appearence by Justin Timberlake. Yes, that seems so very likely, because we KNOW that MTV would never approve of such a thing.

  • When did you file your FOIA? THey generally have about a month to respond to you (though I’ve always gotten some sort of acknowledgment within a couple of weeks) without requesting additional time.
    I filed a series of FOIAs in May on an environmental matter and am only just starting to get documents back now. Delays are a frustrating, but inevitable, part of the legal process and dealing with government agencies.

  • Jay

    Powell also told Stern that the reason Viacom’s owned TV stations were fined for Janet Jackson but NOT the affiliates was because (paraphrasing here) the “parent company” is responsible.
    I wish Stern had then asked him why the FCC did the exact opposite with Howard Stern: it fined 6 Clear Channel affiliates for an offending Stern show but not a penny against Viacom or other affiliates. Obviously another inconsistent, political move, that time against Clear Channel.

  • Old Grouch

    So why is Viacom being fined and not Jackson?
    Assuming the above isn’t a troll… ;-)
    First off, the FCC didn’t “fine Viacom” anything (see 2nd paragraph). The fines were assessed against the CBS O&Os (owned-and-operated stations). You might argue that this is a meaningless quibble (since the money all comes out of the same bag anyway), but it’s an important distinction, so follow along please…
    The way the law is written, the station (or more exactly, the licenseholder) bears ultimate responsibility for what goes over the air. (And it’s not just “indecency,” it covers things like fraud and deception as well.) The Commission couldn’t fine Janet Jackson because it has no authority to do so. (While she was employed by Viacom through its subsidiary MTV Productions, she was not a direct employee of any of the stations.) Similarly, it couldn’t fine the NFL, MTV Productions, or even the entity known as “CBS.” The only part of the Viacom conglomerate the Commission had access to was the O&Os, and that’s where it dropped the hammer.
    They could have nailed every affiliate that carried the Super Bowl halftime show, but they didn’t, probably because the non-O&Os would have argued that they had no reason to expect Jackson’s nipple flash, and would not have carried the segment if they had known it was coming.
    OTOH, since Jackson was functioning as a Viacom employee, the whole thing, planned or not, was a Viacom problem.
    The Stern situation is less clear. Using the same reasoning, the Commission should have nailed Infinity Broadcasting’s O&Os (Infinity is Stern’s syndicator/producer), but instead they went after Clear Channel. Why? Well, the complaint that triggered the investigation was filed against Clear Channel’s WBGG, Miami. What’s more, Clear Channel was already on record as having “…asked for assurances from the show’s syndicator that steps would be taken to bring the program into compliance with FCC regulations…”, which in retrospect was probably not a wise thing to do. The request provided the smoking gun that let the Commission reason that Clear Channel (1) had known that there were problems with Stern’s show, but (2) despite that knowledge, failed to monitor it to keep the “problems” from getting on the air.
    The last reports I’ve seen regarding Infinity is that it was still “under investigation,” so there may be one more shoe yet to drop. Stay tuned.

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