The FCC and CBS

It was the most infamous Super Bowl halftime show in history: In 2004, pop stars Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, bumping and grinding their way through a racy routine, had a raunchy finale planned, which they rehearsed two days before. In front of 90 million viewers, including many children, Timberlake yanked off a section of Jackson’s shirt, exposing her right breast.

The nudity angered many viewers, and gave the world a cynical new term: “wardrobe malfunction.” Jackson’s wardrobe is not the only thing that malfunctioned; so did the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Last Monday the court threw out a $550,000 fine the Federal Communications Commission assessed against CBS. The three-judge panel ruled that the FCC fine was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” Apparently, exposing oneself no longer qualifies as broadcast indecency.

Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, got it right when he said the court’s decision “goes beyond judicial activism; it borders on judicial stupidity . . . If a striptease during the Super Bowl in front of 90 million people-including millions of children-doesn’t fit the parameters of broadcast indecency, then what does?” Good question.

While many Americans are angry at the court, they ought to understand this story is not just about activist judges second guessing the FCC: It is also about a willingness to corrupt. It is not enough, it seems, to make strippers available to those who seek them out in seedy clubs. It is about a desire to expose everyone to filth, whether they want to be exposed to it or not-even innocent children.

In this case, pop performers considered shocking adults and corrupting kids an acceptable price to pay for the publicity and career enhancement. And, indeed, if it did not enhance their careers, it must have amused them to force vulgarity before millions of innocent eyes.

The Super Bowl incident generated more than half a million complaints to the FCC-complaints the Third Circuit Court ignored. But there is a remedy if we act now. If you disagree with the court’s decision, here is what I would like you to do right away.

First, call Senator Harry Reid and ask him to schedule a vote now on Senate Bill 1780, the Protecting Children from Indecent Programming Act. It would cover instances of “fleeting nudity” like the one that so disgusted Super Bowl fans, and caused the Muslim world to mock Western decadence. Then call Senator Jay Rockefeller. He authored the bill, but has showed no willingness to move it. Third, call your own two senators and ask them not only to support the bill, but to urge Senators Reid and Rockefeller to move the bill. It has been passed out of committee; they could vote on it today if they wanted to! We need to let senators know that lip service to traditional values is not enough. Lastly, email FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, and thank him for his strong stand; urge him to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Be sure to visit our website,, for phone numbers and for more information on Senate Bill 1780.

Congress is only in session a short time between now and the November elections, so please do this quickly. We have not only a right, but a duty to protect ourselves and our kids from this kind of corruption.

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