Giving Thanks: Viacom's Cuts, Rather, and FCC Losses

It was cut your losses day all around at Viacom Inc. yesterday -- no doubt part of an early Thanksgiving plan.

Viacom agreed to part with $3.5 million in FCC fines, and to part with Dan Rather. The $3.5 million bill stemmed mostly from its radio problems at Infinity Broadcasting including, but not but not limited to, Howard Stern.

Still, Viacom isn't going down without a fight. It refuses to pay the $550,000 fine for the Super Bowl incident. Viacom's position was that it was an accident, not a planned entertainment activity like that of its radio station program bits.

The exiting of Dan Rather from "The CBS Evening News" was also the product of a mistake. But Viacom didn't put up much of a fight on this one.

Considering the downward trend of network news rating shows -- and that Rather was the oldest of all three major broadcast network news anchors -- Viacom may have been seeking this anyway.



Rather will be missed though. Cookie-cutter news anchors - more appropriately called newsreaders in U.K.- are a dime a dozen. Under Rather's folksy awkwardness you could always see a real journalist. More impressive was his apology - something that rarely surfaces these days. Journalists usually only list their corrections in newspapers or at the end of TV news shows. How about an apology from an NBC executive for "Emeril?"

Viacom Inc. offers no apology that it is in a tough business. It picks some fights, but will swiftly end long-running TV sitcoms or dramas, radio shows, or TV news programs when it needs to. Cutting losses this time of year is just good business, but it's bad for the people involved. Viacom may not give thanks for all of that. But it might for next year's Super Bowl.

February's NFL-approved half-time act is Paul McCartney, who -- except for having his clothes torn while running through screaming crowds of young girls with the Beatles in the 1960s -- has never had a wardrobe malfunction.

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