CBS Pays Fine, Files Challenge

Jul 28, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Nearly two years after the Federal Communications 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.

Saying it was paying the fine only for the “procedural reason” of having to do so to appeal, CBS said in a statement that it continues to believe the ruling categorizing the incident 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.”

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 FCC defended its decision to fine the CBS stations.

“The commission will vigorously defend the forfeiture order,” said FCC spokesperson Tmara Lipper. “CBS’s 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.”

The Feb. 1, 2004, incident occurred during an MTV-produced halftime show aired live to an estimated 140 million viewers, the biggest TV audience of any show that year. The performance 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, which prompted a furor in Congress.

CBS said it knew nothing of the stunt and the airing of the breast was accidental.

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