In a unanimous decision, the FCC levies a $27,500 fine, the maximum for indecency

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 23, 2004 08:00 AM

CBS has learned the price it must pay for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl halftime show: $550,000, the highest fine ever levied against a broadcaster.

In a unanimous decision announced Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission levied a $27,500 penalty – the maximum for indecency – on each of the 20 CBS-owned stations because of the singer’s stunt, which momentarily exposed her right breast on the air.

“As countless families gathered around the television to watch one of our nation’s most celebrated events, they were rudely greeted with a halftime show stunt more fitting of a burlesque show,” said commission chairman Michael Powell, as reported by the Associated Press.

Jackson’s halftime costar was Justin Timberlake, who ripped off part of Jackson’s bodice but then blamed the exposure on a “wardrobe malfunction.”

CBS’s more than 200 affiliate stations, though they also aired the halftime show, will not be fined, apparently because they are not owned by the network’s parent company, Viacom Inc.

A statement issued by CBS, which has 30 days to file a formal response to the FCC decision, said: “While we regret that the incident occurred and have apologized to our viewers, we continue to believe that nothing in the Super Bowl broadcast violated indecency laws.

“Furthermore,” said the network, “our investigation proved that no one in our company had any advance knowledge about the incident.”