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Supreme Court won't hear Super Bowl 'wardrobe malfunction' appeal

June 29, 2012|By Austin Knoblauch
  • Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform moments before Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.
Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake perform moments before Jackson's… (David Phillip / Associated…)

It appears the controversy surrounding the most famous "wardrobe malfunction" in history has finally been put to rest.

The Supreme Court announced Friday it would not reinstate the government's fine on CBS for showing a glimpse of Janet Jackson's breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, refusing to hear an appeal from the Federal Communications Commission.

The $550,000 fine had been thrown out twice by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the FCC had changed its rules regarding brief instances of indecent words and images a month after the Super Bowl incident. The judges described the FCC's action to go after CBS after changing it's indecency rules as “arbitrary and capricious.”

However, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts said the FCC still has the authority to levy fines or other penalties on networks that violate the agency's indecency rules:

“It is now clear that the brevity of an indecent broadcast — be it word or image — cannot immunize it from FCC censure,” Roberts said. “Any future 'wardrobe malfunctions' will not be protected on the ground relied on by the court below."

Jackson's breast-bearing incident was briefly broadcast to an audience of millions as she performed with Justin Timberlake during CBS' live coverage of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show. The pair later blamed the faux pas on a "wardrobe malfunction."

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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