CBS Takes Jackson Fine to Court
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/28/2006 7:11:00 AM
CBS has paid the $550,000 indecency fine for the Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident, but only so it can take the decision to court.
"CBS is filing today an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit seeking to overturn the FCC’s finding that the 2004 Super Bowl half-time broadcast was legally indecent," the network said in a statement.
"A prerequisite for filing this appeal is to pay the $550,000 fine, which we are also doing today only for this procedural reason."
CBS was paying a $27,500, then the FCC maximum, for 20 station cited. It made the wire transfer to the FCC Friday "under protest."
"CBS has apologized to the American people for the inappropriate and unexpected half-time incident, and immediately implemented safeguards that have governed similar broadcasts ever since. However, we disagree strongly with the FCC’s conclusions and will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights."
The Third Circuit is the same Philadelphia court that remanded the FCC's ownership rules, saying they had not sufficiently justified them. It is also the court that held unconstitutional the Communications Decency Act, which tried to apply decency standards to the Internet. CBS has also challenged four FCC profanity findings in court. The court appeal came just a day after the TV industry announced a campaign to educated parents about the content-control they already have. That campaign, and the recently boosted indecency fines, both have their genesis, in part, in the FCC's fine of CBS-owned stations for Janet Jackson's 2004 Super Bowl Reveal. The affiliates were not fined, even though they also carried the fraction of a second's worth of exposed breast.
The FCC in May denied CBS' challenge to the commission's $550,000 fine, rejecting CBS' assertion that the broadcast was not indecent. CBS' response, essentially, had been: "See you in court."
The FCC's response Friday was essentially, 'Bring it on': "The Commission will vigorously defend the Forfeiture Order issued against CBS," it said in a statement. "CBS’ continued insistence that the halftime show was not indecent demonstrates that it is out of touch with the American people. Millions of parents, as well as Congress, understand what CBS does not: Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” was indeed indecent." CBS has long said that the decision shouldn't stand. CBS chief Leslie Moonves back in 2004 told TV critics that the fine was "patently ridiculous" and that the company was "not going to stand for it." CBS had a deadline of early next week to pay the fine, a point emphasized by Parents Television Council, whose massive e-mail complaints helped prompt the fine. PTC has been running a countdown clock on its home page under the heading: "Time Running Out For CBS to Pay Indecency Fines." It was still counting down at a little over three hours and nineteen minutes at press time.
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