FCC Fine Reversed for Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl ‘Wardrobe Malfunction’
After more than seven years, millions in legal fees, and a record-breaking number of TiVo rewinds, the lengthy case of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show has finally been settled.
At stake was the $550,00 fine levied by the FCC against CBS -- which the FCC filed after one of Jackson's breasts was inadvertently exposed during the performance -- and according to the latest court ruling, the FCC won't get a dime.
Saying the network had not been properly informed about changes in the FCC's enforcement policies, Philadelphia's 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the fine, arguing that the agency acted "arbitrarily and capriciously." The FCC issued a statement expressing disappointment with the ruling, saying, "The FCC will continue to use all of the authority at its disposal to ensure that the nation’s broadcasters fulfill the public interest responsibilities that accompany their use of the public airwaves."
Unsurprisingly, CBS is happy with the decision. The network issued its own statement, saying, "We are gratified that once again the court has ruled in our favor. We are hopeful that this will help lead the FCC to return to the policy of restrained indecency enforcement it followed for decades."
The fine's reversal comes after years of legal tug-of-war and conflicting rulings, including the court's original repeal, handed down in 2008. But according to Andrew Jay Schwartzman, the policy director for the non-profit Media Access Project, justice has finally been served.
"Like the 'wardrobe malfunction' itself, there is less here than meets the eye," Schwartzman argued during an interview with TheWrap. "The majority held that the FCC improperly attempted to change its 'indecency' policies in applying them to CBS. The decision is a reminder that the FCC can't change its enforcement policies in the face of public pressure, and that it needs to take special care when First Amendment rights are at issue."