For the second time in a week, the FCC emerged victorious at the U.S. Supreme Court on issues of broadcast indecency, as the high court on Monday set aside a ruling by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned a $550,000 fine imposed by the FCC in connection with singer Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during a live broadcast of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show on CBS. The decision on the issue of “fleeting nudity,” handed down Monday, comes on the heels of last week’s Supreme Court ruling on fleeting expletives, in which the court held that the FCC was justified in holding broadcasters liable for unscripted and unexpected use of foul language on live television. Although a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit court determined last July that the FCC had not given CBS and its affiliates adequate advance notice of changes in the FCC’s broadcast indecency policy that prohibit fleeting displays of nudity, the Supreme Court ordered the Third Circuit this week to give “further consideration” to its ruling. Noting that the Supreme Court’s action came as no surprise in light of last week’s ruling in the fleeting expletives case, a CBS spokesman asserted: “we are confident that, in reviewing the case, the Third Circuit will again recognize that the Super Bowl incident, while inappropriate and regrettable, was not and could not have been anticipated by CBS.”
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Supreme Court sets aside appellate ruling in Janet Jackson case
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