CBS will not be fined for airing a "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl, sparking concern with family groups over TV regulations.
The Federal Communication Commission proposed that CBS pay a $550,000 indecency fine after Janet Jackson's breast was exposed at the end of the game's half time show. The mishap landed on the television screens of some 90 million viewers, including children.
But a federal appeals court threw out the penalty Monday, claiming the FCC "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" by issuing the fine. Despite the large number of viewers, the three judge panel felt the "nine-sixteenths of one second glimpse" was not enough to break FCC rules.
"Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing," the court said. "But it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure."
Groups like the Parents Television Council disagree and are now speaking out on the decision.
"Once again, a three-judge panel has hijacked the will of the American people," PTC president Tim Winter said. "... If the Court doesn't think that the event wasn't shocking enough, even though it was the single largest news story for weeks when the nation was at war, then what is shocking enough?"
CBS, in a statement Monday, called the ruling "an important win for the entire broadcasting industry because it recognizes that there are rare instances, particularly during live programming, when it may not be possible to block unfortunate fleeting material, despite best efforts."
The PTC is now pushing Congress to pass the "Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act" to keep racy content away from the eyes of kids.
"The Third Circuit Court is wrong, and we urge the FCC to appeal this case to the U.S. Supreme Court," Winter said. "We urge the public to speak up on this matter by contacting their congressional representatives and the White House, too."
Sources: The Associated Press, Parent Television Coucil