Eye lashes out at FCC’s flash fine

CBS claims agency overstepped its authority

In its court challenge of the FCC’s $550,000 indecency fine for the Janet Jackson breast flash at the 2004 Super Bowl, CBS said that the agency had overstepped its authority and issued the penalty in a manner “arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law.”

Filed Monday afternoon in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, CBS’ brief essentially restates the arguments the Eye made to the Federal Communications Commission, which the FCC rejected in upholding the fine earlier this year.

CBS attorneys said the fine represented an unjustified expansion of FCC indecency authority, which the brief noted was both defined and upheld “narrowly” by the Supreme Court in 1978. Brief also said the agency was trying to impose a “national community standard” that does not exist and that regulators issued the fine even though no evidence exists that CBS personnel either participated in or had advance knowledge of the incident.

“CBS is seeking a return to the FCC’s previous time-honored practice of more measured indecency enforcement,” the Eye said in a statement.

“CBS continues to ignore the voices of millions of Americans, Congress and the commission by arguing that Janet Jackson’s halftime performance was not indecent,” FCC spokesman Clyde Ensslin said, closely echoing a statement the agency made when the network announced its intention to go to court. “CBS believes there should be no limits on what can be shown on television even during family-viewing events like the Super Bowl; we continue to believe they are wrong.”

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