WASHINGTON (ABP) — Standards of decency on broadcast television are again in the news as the Federal Communications Commission investigates what led to an incident during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXVIII.
The show, watched by an estimated 99 million viewers, was broadcast on CBS Feb. 1. During the show, recording artists Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake created a sensation when, at the end of a performance featuring a sexually suggestive dance routine, Timberlake ripped off a part of Jackson's costume, exposing her right breast.
“I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl,” said FCC Chairman Michael Powell in a Feb. 2 statement announcing the investigation. “Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better.”
All of the commission's other members also released statements denouncing the performance and criticizing CBS executives for letting it slip through.
The investigation reportedly will include the entire halftime show, which contained other elements that apparently offended media critics and pro-family organizations.
In his Feb. 2 “Washington Update” email newsletter, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins lambasted the performance, which was produced by MTV. “We are glad that the FCC has thrown a flag on the halftime show and hope they will hold CBS liable for this affront to America's children and all who were watching,” Perkins said. “[T]he whole halftime program was tasteless and far from family-friendly. CBS should have known better than to turn the halftime entertainment over to MTV, who relishes in their ability to shock.”
Viacom, Inc., owns both CBS and MTV. According to reports, NFL officials have said they likely will not allow MTV to produce halftime shows for future Super Bowls.
Jackson released a statement apologizing for the incident, and Timberlake released a statement saying he regretted the “wardrobe malfunction.”
The controversy is just the latest to surround the FCC and broadcast decency standards. In January, the commission fined the massive radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications for several raunchy radio broadcasts. It also has announced it is considering harsher penalties for media outlets violating decency standards.
Powell and the FCC have garnered repeated criticism since last year, when the agency's enforcement arm ruled that U2 lead singer Bono's casual use of a curse word during an NBC awards-show broadcast in January 2003 did not rise to the level of a decency violation.