FCC petitions to revisit Janet Jackson fine


The FCC believes that if it can go after fleeting expletives, punishing and fining the guilty, than it should be able to do the same when fleeting images go beyond the pale of American standards of decency. And it wants to revisit the Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction case to determine whether CBS was acting recklessly in not broadcasting a live event on delay.

The CBS v. FCC case was heard before the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. FCC believes it adequately showed that the Super Bowl halftime show was offensive, that the wardrobe malfunction was patently offensive; that there never was a fleeting image enforcement exception; and asks that it be allowed to prove that CBS’s “violation was willful because it was reckless.”

RBR/TVBR observation: The Janet Jackson incident is turning into the longest 7/16ths of a second in the history of the world. It’s one thing to have an engineer with a dump button in a studio with an audio-only shock jock. It is another matter entirely doing live audio and video in the real world.

One of the most important roles of the media is to provide coverage of breaking news. But anytime live mics and cameras are out in the field, there is the risk that something untoward may go out over the air. And so what?

And just what was the harm of the wardrobe malfunction? We have heard of no deaths attributed to it; we have heard of no cases of sudden moral decay to someone exposed to the incident; we have heard of no emergency room visits.

The FCC and the indecency watchdogs must think that the American people are the wimpiest featherweight fraidycat milquetoasts ever. Is the average American really cowering under an blankie in the corner of his couch saying, “Oh my, I heard a bad word, whatever shall I do?”

We don’t think so. We like to think the average American is proud to live in a free country, and is tough enough to fight for that freedom. The last thing a proud American needs is a national nanny.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press far outweigh the need to protect the people from the occasional bad word.

The indecency here is the refusal of the FCC to accept its loss and move on to more important matters.