Janet Jackson Supreme Court
Court documents showed the Federal Communications asked the top US court to reimpose the fine on CBS television network in the long-running legal battle over indecency broadcast standards.
The US Federal Communications Commission levied the $550,000 fine against CBS in 2006 for breaking indecency rules during a halftime performance by Jackson at the 2004 Super Bowl, the championship game of the National Football League.CBS appealed the fine and the case has wound its way through the courts since then.
In its ruling in November, the appeals court ruled in favor of CBS, saying the FCC had acted “arbitrarily” in penalizing the TV network CBS and that the indecency standard should not be applied to “fleeting images.”
But the FCC says in its request to the Supreme Court that “no such exemption has ever existed” for nudity, although there may be an exemption for isolated uses of expletives. It said other cases involving Fox and ABC television also support the FCC decision.
Jackson, the youngest sister of the late Michael Jackson, was performing live at the Super Bowl when fellow pop star Justin Timberlake tore off her bustier, exposing her breast for a fraction of a second to some 90 million viewers.
CBS apologized for the incident but in 2004 it was ordered to pay the fine, the stiffest penalty the agency could levy against the network.
Wednesday’s statute is a second time a United States Court of Appeals for a Third Circuit has sided with CBS on a issue. It reached a same end in a 2008 ruling. But a Supreme Court asked a Third Circuit to reconsider after ruling that a FCC could retaliate Fox for “fleeting expletives” spoken by Cher and Nicole Richie during broadcasts in 2002 and 2003“We interpretation that, if anything, a Supreme Court’s preference fortifies a strange opinion,” wrote a two-judge infancy on Wednesday. In a Fox case, a FCC had told broadcasters of a change in process associated to “fleeting expletives,” and a evidence focused on either a FCC had sufficient fit a change. In contrast, a FCC had not told CBS of a process change before smacking a network with a $550,000 excellent for a nipplegate incident.
Judge Scirica, a author of a court’s strange opinion, dissented from Wednesday’s ruling. He argued that a Supreme Court’s Fox preference meant that “the protected bay for passing nonliteral expletives was an removed difference rather than an instance of a some-more ubiquitous rule.” Hence, he said, punishing CBS for nipplegate was unchanging with a policies a FCC had in place during a time.
By itself, a statute isn’t going to lead to Girls Gone
The Supreme Court has another case on its docket dealing with whether profanity can be censored by the FCC.
The Justice Department told the High Court that Janet Jackson’s incident had no “fleeting images exemption from indecency enforcement” and that the singer’s act was “shocking and pandering,” airing “during a prime-time broadcast of a sporting event that was marketed as family entertainment and contained no warning that it would include nudity.”
But CBS said that the government’s fine system is arbitrary, with the FCC fining some and leaving other alone for the same behavior.
The three-judge Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed, finding for a second time the FCC had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously,” since the commission did not give the media companies proper prior warning about subsequent changes in its enforcement policies.
The judge for the appeals court wrote,
“An agency may not apply a policy to penalize conduct that occurred before the policy was announced,”
CBS is now arguing to the High Court to just leave the case alone and let the appeals court ruling stand. If the court disagrees witht hem then oral arguments will be scheduled for after the summer.
Congress quickly reacted at the time to the visual shocker by increasing the limit on indecency fines tenfold, up to $325,000 per violation per network. And it said each local affiliate that aired such incidents also could be punished by the same amount.
Family and religious advocacy groups came down hard against the appeals court ruling.