Supreme Court Let’s CBS off the Hook for Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Malfunction”

High court rules in favor of the network, settling the 2004 Super Bowl controversy for good.

Posted: 06/29/2012 06:53 PM EDT
Janet Jackson Super Bowl

It’s been a busy week for the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court, which issued a landmark decision on President Barack Obama’s controversial health-care law yesterday [June 28], is now finally putting an end to the legal battle between CBS and the Federal Communications Commission over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl.


As reported by the Associated Press, the Supreme Court has ruled today [June 29] to let CBS off the hook for the government’s $550,000 indecency fine. According to the appeals court, in just a month after the scandal the FCC changed their policy of excusing fleeting instances of indecent words and images. Judges called the charges against CBS "arbitrary and capricious" due to the lack of awareness of the change on the agency’s part. Although CBS was able to dodge the fine this time, Chief Justice John Roberts made it clear that "Any future wardrobe malfunctions will not be protected on the ground relied on by the court below."


The infamous scandal took place during the Super Bowl’s halftime show when Justin Timberlake ripped off a piece of Janet Jackson’s top revealing her bare breast. The show which had approximately 90 million viewers, caused a furious backlash not only for the network, but also to the National Football League. Following “Nipplegate,” the league opted for less risqué performers during the intermission gigs. That was until this year when a never-aging Madonna teamed up with rappers Nicki Minaj, M.I.A. and pop group LMFAO to bring the halftime show back to its former glory. However, M.I.A. caused a stir when she flipped the bird to viewers.


The network has also taken precautions to make sure another instance like this doesn’t happen by running the show on a delay. According to the Los Angeles Times, CBS released a statement saying it was "gratified to finally put this episode behind us" and was thankful that "at every major turn of this process, the lower courts have sided with us."


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