Imus' contract also stipulated that he must be given a warning in writing before being fired for stepping over the line.
It's unclear whether CBS had privately warned the radio talk show host about his language. Garbus says Imus wasn't warned. And it's also unclear whether the FCC would actually penalize CBS and/or its affiliates over Imus' comments remains unclear.
Current FCC chairman Kevin Martin told a congressional panel last month that "Imus' comments were obviously very, very offensive and were indeed more offensive than some of the indecency remarks that have been made that the commission has fined people for in the past. But I think it's important to understand that the commission doesn't fine any broadcaster for anything related to how offensive what they say is."
However, Martin also indicated that these kinds of issues could be raised in the context of a station's license renewal.
"When stations have their license coming up for renewal, the community that they serve has an opportunity to complain about the broadcasters and how they've used their license," he said.
The FCC first put Hollywood on notice that indecent speech would not be tolerated in 2004.
On NBC's broadcast of the 2003 Golden Globes, U2 frontman Bono used the f-word to describe how "brilliant" it was to be honored with a statue that night.
Without penalizing NBC, then-FCC chairman Michael Powell sent a public message, saying, "The gratuitous use of such vulgar language on broadcast television will not be tolerated."
Under the government's definition, profane language includes those words that are so highly offensive that their mere utterance in the context presented may, in legal terms, amount to a "nuisance."
The FCC says indecency is "patently offensive sexual or excretory references" that can only air in the "safe harbor" from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m, when it is expected that children would not be listening.
Congress gives the FCC the authority to punish anyone who "utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication [and that person] shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."