WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators on Wednesday fined CBS a
record $550,000 for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," which
exposed the singer's breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to slap
each of the 20 CBS-owned television stations with the maximum
indecency penalty of $27,500. The total penalty of $550,000 is the
largest fine levied against a television broadcaster. Most of the
FCC's bigger fines have been against radio stations.
The agency's five commissioners decided not to fine CBS' more
than 200 affiliate stations, which also aired the show but are not
owned by the network's parent company, Viacom.
MTV, a Viacom subsidiary, produced the Feb. 1 halftime show,
which featured Jackson and singer Justin Timberlake performing a
racy duet. At the end, Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson's
black leather top, exposing her right breast to a TV audience of
about 90 million.
Timberlake blamed a "wardrobe malfunction," and CBS was quick
to apologize to viewers. The breast-baring song generated a record
number of complaints to the FCC -- more than 500,000.
"While we regret that the incident occurred and have apologized
to our viewers, we continue to believe that nothing in the Super
Bowl broadcast violated indecency laws," CBS said in a statement. "Furthermore, our investigation proved that no one in our company
had any advance knowledge about the incident."
The FCC started a crackdown soon after the Super Bowl, resulting
in several high-profile fines. Television networks also began
implementing broadcast delays so censors could scrub anything
deemed too racy. CBS, for example, aired the Grammy awards ceremony
a week after the Super Bowl with a five-minute delay. More
recently, the NFL began its season with a live, pregame show on ABC
that was aired with a 10-second delay, and Monday Night Football telecasts on ABC will air with a delay for the remainder of the season.
It has been a difficult week for the network. On Monday, CBS News apologized for a "mistake in judgment" in its story questioning President Bush's National Guard service, claiming it was misled by the source of documents that several experts have dismissed as fakes. The story has mushroomed into a major media scandal, threatening the reputations of CBS News and chief anchor Dan Rather.
On Tuesday, CBS News appointed former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press chief executive Louis Boccardi to investigate what went wrong with its story.