FCC undone again by appeals court

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A federal appeals court Monday squelched the FCC's move to fine CBS $550,000 for the momentary exposure of Janet Jackson's breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rejected the FCC's contention that CBS willfully violated indecency standards for the MTV Networks- produced show. However, CBS and its 20 owned-and-operated stations — each of which were fined $27,500-plus — aren't necessarily out of the woods.

The FCC could ask the appeals court to reconsider or ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, consolidating the appeal with the earlier indecency case regarding F-words uttered during the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards on Fox. The Supreme Court will hear that case sometime after the new judicial year begins in October.

CBS on Monday hailed the decision. "It recognizes that there are rare instances, particularly during live programming, when it may not be possible to block unfortunate fleeting material, despite best efforts," it said. (partialdiff)
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