WASHINGTON – CBS got the bill Wednesday for Janet Jackson’s eye-catching flash dance during the Super Bowl halftime show: a record $550,000.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to fine each of the 20 CBS-owned television stations $27,500, which is the maximum penalty for indecency. The singer’s right breast was briefly exposed to millions of television viewers during the show.
The fine is the largest against a television broadcaster.
“As countless families gathered around the television to watch one of our nation’s most celebrated events, they were rudely greeted with a halftime show stunt more fitting of a burlesque show,” said Michael Powell, the commission chairman.
The FCC decided not to fine CBS’s more than 200 affiliate stations, which also aired the halftime show but are not owned by the network’s parent company, Viacom Inc.
The agency cited the “unexpected nature of the halftime show and the apparent lack of involvement in the selection, planning, and approval of the telecast” by the affiliates.
The two Democrats on the five-member FCC panel said the fine should have been higher. It amounted to a “slap on the wrist” for such a huge company, said one commissioner, Jonathan Adelstein. He said the agency could have sent a stronger message by also reprimanding CBS’ affiliates.
A statement issued by CBS said it is reviewing its options to respond to the ruling. The company has 30 days to ask for reconsideration .
“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,” the network said. “Furthermore, our investigation proved that no one in our company had any advance knowledge about the incident.”