NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Now for a pop quiz.
Suppose there's a football game on television. Suddenly a woman dancing topless appears for a second or two on the television screen. Does the fact that the image was fleeting provide a sufficient defense against complaints that the broadcast violated laws against indecent material on the public airwaves? Or, is the brief sighting not a valid defense against a Federal Communications Commission investigation?
Anyone who picked the first option hasn't been following the indecency crackdown spurred by Janet Jackson's bare-breasting episode during last year's live broadcast of her Super Bowl half time performance. And there's a chance that person works for Viacom.
Howard Stern, the shock jock at the center of government efforts to rein in salacious on-air programming, said on his Tuesday radio show that the paraphrased scenario described above appears on an indecency law test that Viacom employees are required to take as part of a deal the media giant recently struck with federal regulators.
And Stern, who plans to jump to paid satellite radio after his contract with Viacom (Research) subsidiary Infinity Broadcasting expires this December, was characteristically blunt in his opinion of the employee test.
"This is so dumb," he muttered, calling the quiz "condescending."
From 45 markets to 41
Meanwhile, Stern continued Tuesday to rant against the head of Citadel Broadcasting Corp., a Las Vegas-based owner of 200 radio stations who took Stern off the air in four markets, including Syracuse, N.Y., Providence, R.I., and Harrisburg, Pa., while he was on vacation last month and through Monday.
The removal brings to 41 the number of radio stations that carry The Howard Stern Show. Stern said he has also received a letter from Citadel demanding $200,000 for lost advertising revenues in the four markets no longer broadcasting his show.
Farid Suleman, the chairman of Citadel and the CEO of Infinity Broadcasting until 2002, has complained about Stern's on-air promotion of his future employer, Sirius Satellite Radio. (Research)
Signaling a possible court battle, Stern warned Citadel that it must still pay him under terms of their contract.
Suleman and a Citadel spokeswoman did not return calls.
Last year Clear Channel Communications dropped Stern from six of its stations and later paid a $1.75 million fine to settle indecency complaints against Stern and others. Stern and Clear Channel (Research) are now fighting in court over his firing last spring.
'Go to hell'
Insolent or not, the employee test comes nearly two months after Viacom agreed to put certain workers through 'sensitivity training' as part of a record $3.5 million settlement the company entered into in November with the FCC.
As part of that agreement, which took effect Dec. 23, Stern will be pulled off the air -- and possibly fired -- if the FCC lodges another formal complaint against Infinity over a future broadcast.
When Stern learned last month of the possible discipline he faces, he threatened to play only music during his four-hour, five-day-a-week morning show.
But in two live broadcasts since returning Jan. 3 from a two-week vacation, Stern has been just as feisty as before. In addition to the employee quiz, he detailed a company description of the words and sounds that might run afoul of FCC rules. Stern said possible profanity includes 'go to hell,' 'goddamn you,' and any "personally reviling epithets."
As for sounds, Stern said banned intonations include flatulence and heavy breathing. His staff then played a few examples.
One question to which Stern readily knew the answer: what's the maximum per-day, per-station fine that the FCC can impose? While he got the per-violation maximum fine wrong -- Stern said $27,500, which was the limit before the FCC raised it last fall to $32,500 to reflect inflation -- Stern correctly said that there isn't a cap on how many violations can occur on any given day or in a year.
An Infinity spokeswoman declined to comment for this story. But she did not dispute the existence of an employee test or a description of the examples Stern read on the air.
Stern's overall take on the matter? "I would so love to be thrown off the air for saying 'go to hell,'" he told listeners.