Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction, exposed her breast for less than a second on national television, but the legal battle it spawned raged for seven years until today (June 21), when it ended with a Supreme Court ruling.
The court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission had inconsistently applied its standards and hadn’t done enough to warn broadcasters before fining them millions of dollars.
The court, however, did not address free speech arguments under the First Amendment, which would have been a far more definitive ruling. Instead it left the door open for the FCC to draft new regulations.
Even so, it overruled the $$550,000 fine imposed on CBS, after Jackson’s breast popped out during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show–with some generous tugging by Justin Timberlake.
The incident, which became known as “Nipplegate,” and four other cases were covered by the court ruling. In each, federal regulators had fined broadcast networks for violations of decency standards imposed between 6am and 10pm. Those fines were also overturned.
The court also ordered the FCC to revise its policy. Under its rules, broadcasters faced fines for even a single fleeting profanity or instance of nudity.
Cable and satellite stations are not covered by the rules, which networks have long complained leave them at a competitive disadvantage.
Other instances cover by the ruling involve Fox. On two separate occasions in 2002 and 2002 singer Cher and actress and fashion designer Nicole Richie both swore on live television.
Another incident involved a seven-second shot of actress Charlotte Ross’ nude bum on a 2003 episode of ABC’s “NYPD Blue.” ABC was fined $1.2 million.
U2 lead singer Bono use of the ‘F-word’ during the Golden Globes, drawing another FCC fine.