Supreme Court refuses FCC bid to fine CBS for Janet Jackson incident
The long legal battle between CBS and the Federal Communications Commission over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show is over.
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to hear the FCC’s request to reinstate a $550,000 indecency fine against CBS for the halftime performance featuring Jackson and Justin Timberlake, who at the end of a song tore a piece of Jackson’s top, exposing her bare breast to an audience of about 90 million.
In November, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld its earlier ruling that the FCC’s indecency fine against the network was invalid. The court didn’t say whether the incident was indecent but said the FCC’s fine represented an undisclosed change in the enforcement of its policy with regard to “fleeting images” and hence could not be enforced.
The FCC then appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
The incident, which took place during the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, led to a crackdown by the FCC on indecent content. The National Football League was also embarrassed by the incident and has since kept a tighter grip on halftime performances and tended to feature artists over the age of 50.
In a statement, CBS said it was “gratified to finally put this episode behind us” and noted that “at every major turn of this process, the lower courts have sided with us.” The network added that since the Super Bowl, it has added delays to all live programming to prevent similar incidents from happening.
The Supreme Court also rejected the broadcast industry’s effort to repeal an FCC ruling limiting the ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market.
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