Appeals Court Strikes Down FCC Fine For Infamous Super Bowl 'Wardrobe Malfunction'

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Appeals Court Strikes Down FCC Fine For Infamous Super Bowl 'Wardrobe Malfunction'

Mon Jul 21, 2008 @ 09:40AM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Wardrobemalfunction_2 A three-judge 3rd Circuit federal appeals court panel has tossed out the $550,000 indecency fine against CBS for the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show that ended with Janet Jackson baring her breast. The justices ruled that the FCC "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" with its punishment. Here's the ruling.

The fine resulted from a FCC rule that bars U.S. television and radio broadcasters from airing obscene material between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are likely to be watching. Ninety million TV viewers tuned in during the live 2004 Super Bowl "wardrobe malfunction."

CBS paid the fine but later appealed. The FCC has made a point of cracking down on indecency in broadcasting, and broadcasters have argued in this case and other cases that involved fleeting expletives that the FCC's guidelines and punishments are arbitrary.

The ruling today represents affirmation of that stance.

"Moreover, the FCC cannot impose liability on CBS for the acts of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, independent contractors hired for the limited purposes of the Halftime Show..," wrote Chief Judge Anthony Scirica for the three-judge panel that heard the case.

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