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Jackson Super Bowl Exploit May Cost Viacom $550,000

The proposed FCC fine probably would be shared by 20 stations directly run by CBS.

July 01, 2004|Jube Shiver Jr. | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Super Bowl breast flash could end up costing CBS $275,000 a second, making one of the big game's commercials look like a bargain.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell has proposed fining the Viacom Inc.-owned network $550,000 for airing Janet Jackson's naked right breast for two seconds at the end of her halftime duet in Houston with Justin Timberlake.

Powell's recommended fine probably would hit each of the 20 TV stations directly owned and operated by CBS with a $27,500 bill.

An agency official confirmed Wednesday that the chairman was seeking approval of the fine from the agency's four other commissioners. Sources said it might be several weeks before the proposal was acted on.

FCC Democrat Michael J. Copps, who has championed tighter monitoring of the airwaves, might seek a higher fine, industry and FCC sources said.

Although the government in recent years has been cracking down on broadcasters in the wake of viewer complaints about indecency on the airwaves, the Jackson incident galvanized broadcast critics and ignited a new round of debates.

Since 1990, the FCC has issued about $4 million in indecency fines and intensified scrutiny of broadcasters as Congress has pressed for higher indecency fines and tougher penalties.

Viacom officials declined to comment Wednesday.

In the past, they have said there was little CBS could have done to prevent exposure of the breast because the Super Bowl is broadcast live.

Some legal experts, however, have said that Viacom, whose MTV unit produced the halftime entertainment, should have exercised better control over the show.

The Super Bowl has long been a showcase for blue-chip advertisers, which this year paid about $2.3 million for a 30-second spot.

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