The Lamp

Where truth can be shared.

CBS Should Quit Whining and Pay Up

Posted by thelamp on November 30, 2006

On Nov. 13, CBS filed a formal appeal against a Federal Communications Commission ruling that it had broken the indecency standards by broadcasting the vulgar Super Bowl half-time show in 2004. That was the prime-time “wardrobe malfunction,” which resulted in a bare shot of Janet Jackson airing briefly.

On behalf of 20 affiliate stations in its appeal, the network argued that it had done nothing wrong by broadcasting “an unscripted, unauthorized and unintended long-distance shot of Ms. Jackson’s breast for nine-sixteenths of one second.”
That was nine-sixteenths of a second too long. The FCC is correct to insist that there should be some limits on what can be shown on television when children are likely to be watching.

“The disgusting display in the star-studded lollapalooza in Super Bowl XXXVIII was little more than razzle-dazzle pornography,” said Pastor Rod Parsley, founder and president of the Center for Moral Clarity. “It was viciously defiling and completely inappropriate for television.”

The networks have an obligation to viewers. That commitment was not fulfilled, and the corporation’s weak apology that the nudity was unintentional was insufficient. The network must be the gatekeeper ensuring that offensive material stays off the air.

Consider that singers Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were performing a duet of Timberlake’s song “Rock Your Body.” As the title implies, the song featured many suggestive dance moves by both Timberlake and Jackson. The content alone was inappropriate and opened the door for regrettable circumstances.

As the song reached the final line, “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song,” Timberlake pulled off a part of Jackson’s costume, exposing flesh not suitable for the family room. CBS immediately cut to an aerial view of the stadium, but the “malfunction” had already been broadcast.

The FCC had ordered CBS pay a fine of $550,000, an amount that represented the maximum fine at the time of $27,500 against each of the stations. A 30-second advertising spot during the Super Bowl costs $1.5 million. So the fine amounts to barely a slap on the wrist. Congress recently increased the minimum penalty substantially to $325,000 per incident.

This should have sent the broadcasters a message that decent Americans are taking the matter seriously. The FCC is right in looking out for the interests of families – as well as common decency – by fining networks over obscenities. The Jackson incident prompted thousands of calls from outraged viewers, and certainly had no place on a family friendly, internationally-televised sports event.

In its 76-page brief, CBS focused on two main points: One, that the FCC had erratically abandoned its long-time standard that “any fleeting, isolated, or unintended” images are not automatically indecent. And two, that the network as a whole shouldn’t be punished for the actions of undisciplined celebrities in a publicity stunt.

The network also emphasized that the FCC “failed to turn up even a shred of evidence that anyone at CBS participated” in the incident. In a short statement accompanying the appeal, CBS said that it is “seeking a return to the FCC’s previous time-honored practice of more measured indecency enforcement . . .”

A concept of “measured indecency” does not set well with moms and dads trying to raise healthy families. Indecency falls in the “zero tolerance” category. CBS is ignoring the voices of millions of Americans, Congress and the Commission by insisting Janet Jackson’s half-time performance was not indecent. CBS believes there should be no limits on what can be shown on television even during family viewing events like the Super Bowl. The network is wrong.

If the FCC fails to endorse indecency standards, who will?



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