CBS Stations Pay $550,000 Janet Jackson Indecency Fine

Court Appeal Filed in Effort to Reverse FCC Decision on 2004 Incident

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WASHINGTON ( -- Nearly two years after the Federal Communication Commission first ruled Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl halftime wardrobe malfunction was indecent and months after it fined CBS and its stations $550,000 for its airing, CBS today paid the fine and immediately filed suit in Philadelphia challenging the FCC decision.
Photo: AP
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake on stage at the 2004 Super Bowl just seconds before the 'wardrobe malfunction' that sparked a national controversy over indecency in the media.
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'Procedural reason'
CBS made it clear, however, that it was only paying the fine for the "procedural reason" of having to do so to proceed with its appeal. CBS in a statement said it continues to believe the ruling deeming the incident indecent was wrong.

"Payment of that forfeiture does not mean that CBS in any way is admitting to a violation of the FCC's indecency rules," CBS said in its court papers. It called the order "unconstitutional, contrary to the Communications Act and FCC rules, and generally arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law."

CBS statement
In a statement, the network denied violating the rules. "CBS has apologized to the American people for the inappropriate and unexpected halftime incident, and immediately implemented safeguards that have governed similar broadcasts ever since. However, we disagree strongly with the FCC's conclusions and will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights."

"The Commission will vigorously defend the forfeiture order," said FCC spokeswoman Tmara Lipper. "CBS' continued insistence that the halftime show was not indecent demonstrates that it is out of touch with the American people. Millions of parents, as well as Congress, understand what CBS does not: Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction' was indeed indecent."

140 million viewers
The Feb. 1, 2004, incident was part on an MTV-produced halftime show that aired live to an estimated 140 million viewers, the biggest TV audience of any show that year. It ended in a stunt in which Justin Timberlake pulled a part of Ms. Jackson's bustier, supposedly to reveal a red bra. Instead, what the audience saw was one of Ms. Jackson's breasts.

The breast-baring prompted a furor in Congress, which this year steeply increased fines broadcasters will pay for indecent material.

CBS has said it knew nothing of the stunt in advance and the breast-baring was accidental.

The FCC ended up fining 20 CBS-owned stations $27,500 each, resulting in a $550,000 fine.
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