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Goodbye, $550,000 Janet Jackson boob fine

by Bob Sassone, posted Jul 21st 2008 1:21PM

Jackson and TimberlakeI remember watching the halftime show of the 2004 Super Bowl and seeing Janet Jackson's nipple at the end of her duet with Justin Timberlake. I couldn't believe what I had just seen and I knew it was going to be a big thing. Of course, no one knew at the time just how big it was going to become. It actually changed the way TV shows are presented now.

But here's some good news for logic: a federal appeals court has thrown out the $550,000 fine that the FCC gave CBS for broadcasting the football boob scene. In the ruling the court said the FCC acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" when they handed out the fine.

I'm happy about this. I have no idea what was in the mind of Jackson and Timberlake when they did this, whether it was planned before hand for shock value or an honest mistake (though I always thought it showed a certain amount of integrity on Timberlake's part that he sang "gonna have you naked by the end of this song" and actually kept his word - a nice lesson for younger viewers). But even if it was planned, I severely doubt CBS would have signed off on it, and it was a live event so how could CBS have stopped it? I also think that the way they handed out the fine - $27,500 for each station that broadcast it! - was ridiculous.

Of course, this doesn't excuse CBS/MTV from putting on a really raunchy, over the top Super Bowl halftime show to begin with.

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I wonder how much it cost them in lawyer expenses to get that $550,000 fine thrown out.

It may have only been on screen live for 9/16 of a second, but I read somewhere that it is one of the most viewed clips (to date.)

July 22 2008 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I found a quote from John Cleese (yes, THAT John Cleese) that could fit here:

"You've got to remember that Christianity in America is mainly about sex. They're so deeply uncomfortable about every aspect of sex, that they don't much care about wars or destroying the environment or financial corruption. But anything to do with sex sets them off. And this is because these people are operating at a very low level of mental health. They are incapable of understanding the teachings."

July 22 2008 at 3:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's a boob, we all have them, America needs to grow up.

July 21 2008 at 11:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good! There seem to be some sane people left in America...;-)

Why don't the F*#%ing Censoring Christians (FCC) just go away?

"...the land of the FREE and the home of the BRAVE...":
Yeah, nothing is better than censorship to illustrate the freedom. And, really BRAVE, people fainting left and right from the sight of a (*GASP!*) nipple (*FAINT!*)....What about 'teh childrens'!!!! I mean, it's not like they have ever seen naked breasts before; only babies outside the U.S. are breastfed, I'm sure...

Would anyone care to explain to a 'librul' European, simply and clearly, exactly what is wrong with nudity in the eyes of the American public, that they freak out when they see it on TV?

I'm speaking, of course, only about those vocal types you hear crying out everytime something like the Super Bowl thing happens. They (are made to?) look like they are representing the majority view in America, but maybe there is really a silent majority that couldn't care less about titties on TV, I don't know. If there is such a silent majority, could they please speak up a little and end the reign of terror of the FCC? (Hyperbole, I know :-))

July 21 2008 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ChrisG's comment

Watch "This film is not rated (yet)" and you'll find out how screwed up america really is when it comes to decency.

July 21 2008 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@Kristen - The turtle LMAO

July 21 2008 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Cook is my Idol!

I find it funny that people got all bent out of shape over someone revealing part of the body, but ignore all the graphic violence on TV and in the movies. I'd rather my kid accidentally see someone's boob exposed than have them watch a murder on TV, even if it is just acting.

IMHO, this is the opposite of that Simpsons episode where Marge protested against Itchy and Scratchy, but didn't mind children being exposed to Michaelangelo's (the artist, not the turtle) statue of David.

July 21 2008 at 2:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to David Cook is my Idol!'s comment

I was in a Blockbuster once and some kung-fu movie was playing on the in house tv. A mother and child walked up to the counter and the mother asked about the movie playing. The girl at the counter said it was a pretty violent movie. And the mother replied "I don't have a problem with violence, is there any nudity in it?" That pretty much sums up most Americans' thinking.

July 21 2008 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

" But even if it was planned, I severely doubt CBS would have signed off on it, and it was a live event so how could CBS have stopped it?"

Tape delay. Radio has it due to the large amounts of fines that are quickly handed out. TV news uses it. Why can't sports programs?

July 21 2008 at 2:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Rocketboy_X's comment
Brent McKee

The decision in this case is quite interesting and potentially quite far reaching. The court applied the standard that fleeting nudity was the equivalent to a fleeting expletive and then applied the FCC practices on fleeting expletives that applied up until the FCC's decision on Bono's appearance at the Golden Globes (a decision which itself has been overturned on appeal before the Second Circuit and is now headed to the Supreme Court). In their Bono decision the FCC declared that any incidents that occurred before that point would not be liable for fines because the policy had not been clearly in place, and the Super Bowl event (which the court described as including 9/16ths of a second exposure) took place some three months before the Bono decision.

They also pointed out that even if the nudity was finable, CBS was not liable since Timberlake and Jackson were not acting as employees of CBS but as "independent contractors" hired for a single performance, and that the network was unaware that the act in question was planned since it was added by Timberlake and Jackson after the final rehearsal for the half-time show.

Of course in Canada there were perhaps 50 complaints about Janet Jackson and her nipple. People up here were more concerned with sexist advertising during the show. I guess we Canadians just aren't as easy to offend as Americans. Either that or we're all degenerates who'd rather see the occasional bare boob than repeated murder and mayhem.

July 21 2008 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Then the FCC needs to ease up on radio.

The real WTF about the whole situation is that you can get fined for talking about something depending on context, and there's no outcry for that. But when there's a breast at a time when breasts are not allowed, in a show that's intended more or less for a family audience, people don't care. If I had done something like this to a random person on the street, I'd be in jail for sex crimes, and be forced to live under a bridge in Florida.

Don't forget, if Timberlake called Janet Jackson a Nappy Haired Ho, then he'd be run out of the country.

July 22 2008 at 9:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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