While most of us have forgotten about the day we were traumatized by the sight of Janet Jackson’s breast almost fully exposed by Justin Timberlake at the Super Bowl XXXVIII, the Federal appeals court apparently did not. According to The Associated PressIt wasn’t until this morning that it dismissed the $550,000 indecency fine against CBS for the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show that left Ms. Jackson’s pastie-covered nipple hanging out in front of 90 million people.
The court ruled that the FCC acted “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in issuing the fine, departing from its established practice of applying equal standards to indecent words and images and fining indecent programming only when it is “pervasive as to amount to ‘shock treatment’ for the audience.”
“Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing, but it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure,” said the court. “The Commission’s determination that CBS’ broadcast of a nine-sixteenths of one second glimpse of a bare female breast was actionably indecent evidenced the agency’s departure from its prior policy. Its orders constituted the announcement of a policy change — that fleeting images would no longer be excluded from the scope of actionable indecency.”
Phew. Finally, we can let go of all that guilt since fleeting images of half-exposed breasts aren’t as evil as we’d thought.