Viacom still talking up gay cable network
April 01 2004 1:00 AM ET
Viacom has "tightened up" its decency standards in the wake of Janet Jackson's racy Super Bowl performance. The communications giant is also in preliminary discussions to launch a gay cable network in the United States, its chairman and chief executive said Tuesday. In Mexico City for the launch of VH1 Latin America, Sumner Redstone told reporters that Viacom was "not a culprit, we were a victim" of Jackson's performance, during which the singer's breast was briefly exposed to a national audience. Viacom controls several companies that have been at the center of a debate about what's appropriate on America's airwaves--including CBS, which aired the Super Bowl, and MTV, which produced the halftime show featuring Jackson. Redstone said the incident, which Jackson has apologized for, has prompted his company to be more careful about decency standards. "We are very conscious of the issue, and we are watching it, particularly because of what happened to us at the Super Bowl," he said.
Viacom also owns Infinity Broadcasting, which regulators earlier this month recommended fining the maximum penalty of $27,500 for a 2001 broadcast by shock jock Howard Stern that featured discussions about sexual practices and techniques. When asked whether Stern would be asked to tone down his often-raunchy act, Redstone said "I would think that--I'm not saying he got any instructions--but I wouldn't be surprised if he cooled it." But he was quick to add, "I don't know what he's going to do. I doubt that anyone would, you know, give him instructions to behave in a way differently than he has. But he's a listener, and he wants to succeed."
Redstone also said Tuesday that he has been in discussions with U.S. cable operators about the possibility of launching a gay and lesbian channel. He called the would-be network "a good channel for them, and a good channel for Viacom." "We are prepared to give it a go, and I'm optimistic about it," he said, adding that "there's no reason why we shouldn't aspire to reach such an enormous demographic, not only in the United States but in the world." Redstone, 80, is worth $8.9 billion and is the world's 35th richest man, according to Forbes Magazine. He brushed off concerns that a channel geared toward gays and lesbians might be opposed by some conservative and religious groups in the United States. "The channel will succeed, I believe," he said. "And we will not be deterred by naysayers."