CBS Claims Legal Victory Over Janet Jackson Flash

23 July 2008

PHILADELPHIA: The ongoing legal saga of singer Janet Jackson's well-publicized wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Superbowl half-time concert has entered a new chapter, this time with a happier outcome for the CBS television network.

A US appeal court has thrown out the $550,000 (€345k; £274k) fine for alleged indecency slapped on the broadcaster by media watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission.

The three-judge panel told the FCC it had "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" and had deviated from its decades old practice of fining indecent broadcast programming only when it was so "pervasive as to amount to 'shock treatment' for the audience".

FCC chairman Kevin Martin (pictured above), who has fought to banish sex and violence from US TV screens by enforcing stiff financial penalties on broadcasters, was disappointed by the ruling.

He said it was a blow to American families and that the FCC would consider an appeal.

While Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council raged: "If a striptease during the Super Bowl in front of 90 million people - including millions of children - doesn't fit the parameters of broadcast indecency, then what does?"

CBS, on the other hand, was delighted with its victory over America's new puritans.

In a statement the broadcaster said: "This is an important win for the entire broadcasting industry because it recognizes that there are rare instances, particularly during live programming, when it may not be possible to block unfortunate fleeting material, despite best efforts."

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional information by WARC staff