Super Bowl

FCC Rejects CBS Appeal to Rescind Super Bowl Fine

Vows to Continue to Fight $550,000 Penalty

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WASHINGTON ( -- The Federal Communications Commission today rejected a request from CBS to reconsider a $550,000 fine for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, setting the stage for a court fight over the penalty.
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Credit: AP

The incident occurred as the climax to an MTV-produced halftime show. The show's performers attempted to conclude the show with a flash; singer Justin Timberlake yanked a strap on Ms. Jackson's outfit that was meant to reveal a brightly colored bra, but instead revealed her right breast with millions watching.

While Ms. Jackson and Mr. Timberlake apologized, as did CBS (which was then part of Viacom) and MTV, the incident infuriated members of Congress and bolstered congressional efforts to push up indecency fines on all broadcast stations.

'Apparent violation'
In September 2004, the FCC issued a "notice of apparent liability" assessing the fine against 20 CBS-owned or -operated stations, saying it found the partial nudity "in apparent violation of the broadcast-indecency standards."

CBS appealed that notice and the four members of the FCC rejected the company's appeal today. Democratic Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein, who originally argued that more stations should have been fined, reiterated his objections.

"While I agree with the ultimate outcome of today's order ... I dissent in part because I continue to believe the commission has erred in fining only CBS- owned and -operated stations, not all stations that broadcasted the indecent material. Notwithstanding that this commission has always purported to apply a national indecency standard on the broadcast medium, the commission has failed to penalize the vast majority of stations that actually broadcasted the offending halftime performance."

CBS will fight
CBS in a statement today indicated it would pursue legal challenges to the FCC action.

"We continue to disagree with the FCC's finding that the broadcast was legally indecent," the statement said. "We will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights, and so today's decision by the FCC is just another step in that process."
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