Stephen M. Silverman
July 19, 2004 08:00 AM

CBS plans to contest any federal fines levied against it for Janet Jackson’s Feb. 1 “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl halftime show.

That was the vow from the network’s chief, Leslie Moonves, who told reporters that the government’s crackdown on indecency since Jackson’s breast-baring stunt on CBS has been “coming dangerously close to infringing” on free speech, reports Reuters.

Speaking to TV critics at their annual summer meeting, a tough-talking Moonves, 54, said that fining CBS would be “patently ridiculous, and we’re not going to stand for it. … We’re going to take it up to the courts if that happens.”

The Federal Communications Commission reportedly is contemplating penalties totaling $550,000 against 20 CBS-owned stations over the Super Bowl telecast.

For those who don’t remember, during the halftime routine Jackson’s costume was ripped away by Justin Timberlake, igniting a public outcry that led to an FCC investigation, congressional action to stiffen fines for broadcast indecency and industry-wide moves to curtail sexually explicit material on the nation’s airwaves.

CBS and its sister cable music network MTV, which produced the halftime show, have insisted they did not know in advance about what Timberlake later called the “wardrobe malfunction.” CBS and other networks have since instituted a five-second delay on many live events.

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