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ISSUE 118 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/17/2004

Super fines: FCC punishes TV network

By Matthew Simenstad
Contributing Writer


Friday, September 17, 2004

Quick! Think of two things that happened in the Super Bowl this past February.

My guess is that the large majority, if not all, of you thought about the New England Patriots beating the Carolina Panthers and/or viewing Janet Jacksons breast. Few people, except the diehard football and sports fans, remember the amazing back-and-forth second half that culminated in Adam Vinatieri winning the second Super Bowl for the New England Patriots in three years with a 41-yard field goal.

The infamous breast incident that occurred during the halftime show, however, cast a dark cloud over the game. As we all know, Justin Timberlake accidentally ripped off part of Janet Jacksons costume, exposing her to millions of people worldwide. An outcry from lawmakers and parents groups followed the game, prompting the Federal Communications Comission (FCC) to launch an investigation into the incident.

The result of the probe: a $550,000 fine for CBS and 20 of the network affiliates it owns. The fine could have been much steeper had the commission decided to level the fine on the rest of the 227 affiliates owned by CBS but not by its parent company, media conglomerate Viacom Inc.

I, like everyone else, have seen a disgustingly large amount of replays of the incident (all of them censored and mostly in slow motion so as to capture the obvious surprise on the face of Jackson). I also saw the incident live and believe that it happened much too quickly for an eight-year old to comprehend it.

Jackson herself apologized for the incident, calling it a wardrobe malfunction, a dubious excuse at best. However, she claimed full responsibility for it saying, The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals.MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended  including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL." (MTV was responsible for the production of the show)

The fine leveled on CBS and its affiliates is miniscule but appropriate. $550,000 is mere pocket change for a multi-billion dollar company like CBS, but it is the maximum fine the FCC can demand.

Jackson on the other hand is not being punished, despite being the only one involved in the incident who took responsibility for what happened in February. Why is she not being fined? Her claim that the plan was to expose her bra shows that Jackson did intend to reveal herself, just not all of herself. If that had gone as planned, she should have been fined anyway. A bra on one of the most watched show of the year on primetime television has to be classified as indecent exposure.

If the FCC wants to crack down on indecency and prevent any future incidents such as this one, they should use this opportunity to send a message by punishing all of the parties involved, including, and especially, MTV. It is nearly impossible to sort through all the excuses, so the FCC might as well punish everyone involved.


Contributing writer Matthew Simenstad is a first year from Eden Prarie, Minn. He has not declared a major.


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