* Jackson's right breast briefly exposed during 2004 Super
* Chief Justice says wardrobe malfunction strains credulity
* CBS says it is gratified episode is finally over
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON, June 29 The U.S. Supreme Court on
Friday let stand a lower court decision to throw out a federal
agency's $550,000 indecency fine against CBS Corp for
airing singer Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the
2004 Super Bowl broadcast.
Jackson's right breast was briefly exposed to almost 90
million TV viewers after singer Justin Timberlake ripped off
part of her bustier during a halftime show performance. CBS was
fined $27,500 for each of the 20 stations it owned.
The justices, in a brief order, rejected an appeal by the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC), declining to review a
ruling by a U.S. appeals court based in Philadelphia that held
the FCC had acted arbitrarily and capriciously in imposing the
CBS said in a statement that it was "gratified to finally
put this episode behind us. It's been more than eight years
since we expressed deep regret for the Super Bowl halftime
The company said, "At every major turn of this process, the
lower courts have sided with us. And now that the Supreme Court
has brought this matter to a close, we look forward to the FCC
heeding the call for the very balanced enforcement which was the
hallmark of the commission for many, many years."
The Supreme Court rejected the FCC's appeal in the CBS case
after its June 21 ruling in two separate cases that went against
the FCC's crackdown on broadcast profanity and nudity. It
unanimously ruled the FCC standards were vague and the agency
had failed to give fair notice of its indecency policy change.
The high court's ruling involved 2002 and 2003 awards shows
on News Corp's Fox television network when singer Cher
blurted out an expletive and actress Nicole Richie used two
The justices in a second case overturned $1.21 million in
fines imposed by the FCC over a seven-second shot of a woman's
nude buttocks on a 2003 "NYPD Blue" episode on Walt Disney Co's
The FCC stepped up its indecency crackdown after the Janet
Jackson incident, which drew half a million complaints to the
Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with the denial of the
appeal. But he wrote briefly and said that even if the appeals
court was wrong in its ruling in the CBS case, the FCC has
clarified its indecency policy since the Janet Jackson incident.
"It is now clear that the brevity of an indecent broadcast -
be it word or image - cannot immunize it from FCC censure,"
He said Timberlake and Jackson "strained the credulity of
the public by terming the episode a 'wardrobe malfunction' and
added, "As every school child knows, a picture is worth a
thousand words, and CBS broadcast this particular picture to
millions of impressionable children."
The Supreme Court case is FCC v. CBS Corp, No. 11-1240.