Four and a half years after Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson teamed up for their memorable Superbowl wardrobe malfunction, CBS has finally been let off the financial hook.
In case you forgot (and how could you?) here’s the infamous performance.
Today, a federal appeals court rejected a $550,000 indecency fine that the Federal Communications Commission levied against the network. You can read all about the decision here.
Now, a half a million dollars is a drop in the bucket to a television network. But that fine scared the heck out of anyone working at the local level. Because in the wake of Superbowl “outcry” (real or imagined), a new law was passed that increased the fines tenfold for any broadcaster caught violating the FCC obscenity guidelines. Worst case scenario for us, some bystander uses profane language during a newscast live shot, and KXLY gets a $325,000 fine for each utterance. Three expletives, and we could be looking at nearly a million bucks. A network can afford a fine like that. We can’t, and neither can most local affiliates. That’s why many local stations invested in equipment allowing us to operate on a “delay” (in our case, seven seconds) so that we had time to -- frantically -- delete any profane language or images that might unexpectedly pop up during live TV. The equipment wasn’t cheap, but considering what’s at stake, it’s a wise investment.
Don’t get me wrong. As broadcasters, we have an obligation to take reasonable steps to keep profane material off the airwaves. But I think a $325,000 fine for one curse word or naughty image is…what’s that word? Obscene. Thank goodness that cooler heads at the 3rd U.S Circuit Court of Appeals feel the same way.
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