We were all there. That moment in the 2004 Super Bowl when Janet Jackson gave live television a look at what many a man dreams about at night. It was a national scandal. How dare they allow such a thing to happen on live television? There were children watching! In the end, it was chalked up as a wardrobe malfunction and it quickly faded from the national consciousness.
Well, it’s back again because the FCC is asking the Supreme Court to hear a case surrounding that very wardrobe malfunction and a fine the commission levied against CBS. For those who stopped caring after the scandal evaporated, the FCC slapped a $550,000 fine on CBS saying that the nip slip was offensive to all the families watching the game. CBS filed suit protesting the fine.
Let’s look at this critically: the actual showing of the breast lasted for less than a second. The majority of viewers are probably not even paying attention to the half-time show and even then, who really cares. Just look at this year’s scandal of M.I.A. flipping the bird during the halftime show. While it caused an uproar for about a week, people stopped caring. The same goes for Janet Jackson’s “debacle.”
That being said, the FCC really does feel that it has a case. The commission says that the lower courts ruled in favor of CBS because they agreed that the nip slip caused no real harm because it wasn’t long enough to deal any lasting damage.
This will be a pretty important case if the SCOTUS decides to hear it. Pretty much ever since the inception of television, the FCC has been in charge of regulating its content. They tell broadcasters what they can and can not air. Live events are not exactly easy to regulate so these kind of things can and will happen. If the SCOTUS sides with CBS, then it will reduce the amount of authority the FCC has over television. If the SCOTUS sides with FCC, the commission will retain its power.
I was going to add some Twitter reaction to this story, but it turns out nobody cares. I think the FCC can stand to not care either. Granted, this is more about retaining their power to police content on television than it is about a little nip slip.
Do you think that the FCC should have the power it does over broadcast networks? Is CBS right to protest such a hefty fine? Let us know in the comments.