Court Tosses Super Bowl Fine

Federal panel says FCC acted capriciously with $550K penalty
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2008 1:27 PM CDT
Super Bowl XXXVIII: Halftime Show   (Getty Images)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – A federal appeals court today threw out the FCC $550,000 fine against CBS for Janet Jackson’s infamous 2004 “wardrobe malfunction.” The decency watchdogs were found to have acted arbitrarily in changing their policy of not punishing fleeting nudity, Broadcasting & Cable reports. The court separately said the network couldn’t be held "vicariously liable" for the halftime breast-baring—that is, liable for something it didn't plan and could not foresee.

The FCC had argued that its forgiveness on "fleeting" violations had applied to expletives, not images, but the court said the agency's enforcement history showed otherwise. Said CBS, “We are gratified by the court's decision, which we hope will lead the FCC to return to the policy of restrained indecency enforcement it followed for decades.”