FCC Upholds Ruling Against CBS For Janet Jackson's '04 Super Bowl Performance; Issues More TV Rulings
March 15, 2006 at 3:04 PM (PT)
The FCC today released decisions resolving over 300,000 consumer complaints about the broadcast of indecent, profane, and/or obscene TV programming. In these decisions, the Commission addressed complaints about nearly 50 television programs broadcast between FEBRUARY 2002 and MARCH 2005.
The Commission upheld its earlier decision against CBS for the broadcast of indecent material during the FEBRUARY 1, 2004 SUPER BOWL XXXVIII halftime show. The Commission rejected CBS’ claim that the pulling off a portion of JANET JACKSON’s bustier to reveal her breast is not indecent. The Commission also held that CBS "consciously and willfully failed to take actions to prevent the broadcast of the material, and that CBS is responsible for the halftime show."
The FCC also found episodes of "Without a Trace" and "The Surreal Life 2" to be impermissible under the Commission’s indecency standard. The Commission also found indecent and profane several television programs containing offensive language. Where material is found actionable, the Commission sanctioned all licensees whose stations are the subject of viewer complaints filed with the Commission.
Finally, the Commission denied complaints regarding numerous other television programs which, although the FCC admitted may offend many people, the Commission concluded that the material in these 28 television programs involved was not actionable.
Chairman KEVIN MARTIN issued a statement reading "Congress has long prohibited the broadcasting of indecent and profane material and the courts have upheld challenges to these standards. But the number of complaints received by the Commission has risen year after year. They have grown from hundreds, to hundreds of thousands. And the number of programs that trigger these complaints continues to increase as well. I share the concerns of the public - and of parents, in particular - that are voiced in these complaints.
"I believe the Commission has a legal responsibility to respond to them and resolve them in a consistent and effective manner. So I am pleased that with the decisions released today the Commission is resolving hundreds of thousands of complaints against various broadcast licensees related to their televising of 49 different programs. These decisions, taken both individually and as a whole, demonstrate the Commission’s continued commitment to enforcing the law prohibiting the airing of obscene, indecent and profane material.
"Additionally, the Commission today affirms its initial finding that the broadcast of the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show was actionably indecent. We appropriately reject the argument that CBS continues to make that this material is not indecent. That argument runs counter to Commission precedent and common sense."
Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS said that "in the past, the Commission too often addressed indecency complaints with little discussion or analysis, relying instead on generalized pronouncements. Such an approach served neither aggrieved citizens nor the broadcast industry. Today, the Commission not only moves forward to address a number of pending complaints, but does so in a manner that better analyzes each broadcast and explains how the Commission determines whether a particular broadcast is indecent. Although it may never be possible to provide 100 percent certain guidance because we must always take into account specific and often-differing contexts, the approach in today’s orders can help to develop such guidance and to establish precedents. This measured process, common in jurisprudence, may not satisfy those who clamor for immediate certainty in an uncertain world, but it may just be the best way to develop workable rules of the road."
Using the indecency issue, as he has in the past, to attack media consolidation, COPPS asked "if heightened media consolidation is indeed a source for the violence and indecency that upset so many parents, shouldn’t the Commission be cranking that into its decisions on further loosening of the ownership rules? I hope the Commission, before voting again on loosening its media concentration protections, will finally take a serious look at this link and amass a credible body of evidence and not act again without the facts, as it did in 2003."