Court Overturns FCC Fine in Janet Jackson Case

PHILADELPHIA - The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today threw out a half-million dollar fine levied by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against CBS Corp. for having broadcast the half-second exposure of Janet Jackson's breasts during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show.

In a 2-1 ruling, Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica declared that in fining the network, the FCC arbitrarily overturned its previously stated policy that "fleeting instances" of indecent speech were not actionable by the agency.

"The Commission's determination that CBS's 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," the court found. "Its orders constituted the announcement of a policy change - that fleeting images would no longer be excluded from the scope of actionable indecency."