Eight years after Janet Jackson’s memorable “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl XXXVI game in 2004, a federal appeals court denied the Federal Communications Commission’s $550,000 fine of the CBS network.
Critics question whether this ruling was too lenient, as many argue such blatant displays of profanity should not be promoted on national television, especially on family focused broadcasts, such as sports events.
The FCC attempted to fine CBS for showing a half-second shot of performer Janet Jackson’s nipple after pop artist Justin Timberlake ripped off part of her clothing during their half-time show performance.
The reasoning for the court’s 2 to 1 vote against the appeal was that the FCC did not notify its networks of a change in policy regarding indecent exposure or use of lewd language before the Jackson slip.
“The FCC failed to acknowledge that its order in this case reflected a policy change and improperly imposed a penalty on CBS for violating a previously unannounced policy,” read the court statement.
According to Judge Marjorie Rendell, the FCC’s policy statement changed without notice in March 2004, just one month after the infamous half-time show took place.
Critics expressed surprise at the decision, especially after the higher supreme court recently ruled in a Fox television case that fines may be applied for the slip of a single curse word on national television.
CBS backed the ruling, citing FCC’s retrograde in policy statements.
“The FCC failed to acknowledge that its order in this case reflected a policy change and improperly imposed a penalty on CBS for violating a previously unannounced policy,” said the network in a statement.
Many critics argue the court’s decision proved too lenient, as television progressively pushes the envelope with inappropriate language and images.
Many comedy shows, such as Fox’s “Family Guy,” is highlighted at the highly offensive “red” level by the Parents Television Council, which pushes for stricter television decorum.
“Today’s ruling reaches the level of judicial stupidity and is a sucker-punch to families everywhere,” said President of the Parents Television Council Tim Winter regarding the “wardrobe malfunction” case.
Winter added that the Third Circuit court that threw out the appeal chose to ignore the facts of the law and will of the American people.
Growing liberalness is not exclusive to national television. The music industry has also received flack for casting an inappropriate image of celebrity culture to America’s youth, thus potentially desensitizing children.
The Journal of the American Medical Association released a study conducted in 1992 which compared the violence rate in countries with television and countries without television. According to the report, the murder rate doubled over a period of 15 years in countries with television.
Many back the court’s decision to scrap the fine, arguing that although television is responsible for desensitizing America’s youth by making radically sexual and violent situations appear to be the societal “norm,” ultimately the responsibility lies in the hands of the parents to regulate what their children see.
“The first step to keeping negative influences from affecting a child is the parent. If you refuse to stop your child from watching it then you are to blame, not the reality television shows or the companies that produce them,” contends reporter Brittany Dant of the Mercer University newspaper, Mercercluster.