Super Bowl XXXVIII burned itself into the annals of American pop culture history when the half-time show took a turn for the XXX-rated as Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s bejeweled nipple at the end of his song “Rock Your Body.” The FCC initially fined CBS $550,000 for the incident, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Wednesday that “the agency arbitrarily and capriciously imposed a penalty that flew in the face of a policy stating that fleeting instances of non-compliance with standards would not be punished,” Flavorwire reports.
They add, “The Parents Television Council — who you might remember from their massive and unwarranted Skins flip-out — have issued a fiery response. PTC President Tim Winter calls the ruling a sucker-punch to families everywhere and, hilariously, refers to the original incident as a Janet Jackson striptease.”
In a press release, Winter wrote, “When CBS aired the now-infamous Janet Jackson striptease, the response was an unprecedented national uproar with the largest spontaneous outpouring of FCC complaints in its history. The event became the biggest news story for weeks, even during a time of war. Congress held hearings and passed legislation increasing the fines for broadcast indecency violators. And a new pop-culture expression of ‘wardrobe malfunction’ was coined.” That’s all true, according to Wikipedia, which says that “the FCC received nearly 540,000 complaints from Americans, with the PTC claiming responsibility for around 65,000 of them.“
Winter’s concerns after all this time seem a bit overwrought, since as Ars Technica notes, “By itself, the ruling isn’t going to lead to Girls Gone Wild broadcasts in prime time. The decision focuses on the due process rights of broadcasters, and doesn’t place any substantive limits on broadcast indecency rules. Now that the FCC has clearly announced its zero-tolerance stance toward boobs on the boob tube, Wednesday’s ruling won’t prevent the FCC from punishing future wardrobe malfunctions.”
The PTC may have nothing to worry about, because as Ars Technica concludes in a quote from Adam Thierer of George Mason University, “Kids are already using new media platforms more than broadcast TV, so the only thing continued FCC regulation does is protect adults from themselves.”
If it takes eight years to properly process a half-second peek at a covered nipple, it’s no wonder people freak out about breastfeeding in public, no? Oy.