Wardrobe Malfunction Case Sent Back For Review
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Oh, here's another of life's little disappointments. The United States Supreme Court will not take up what's come to be called Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl, at least it won't take it up for now. The high court sent the case back to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals for review. And we have complete coverage from NPR's Tom Cole.
TOM COLE: It all began with this.
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COLE: Now, you can't see Janet Jackson's exposed body part on radio. You'll have to go to YouTube for that, but that's how long it lasted. In FCC parlance, it's called fleeting nudity.
The Supreme Court ruled on fleeting profanity last week when it sent the case of FCC versus Fox Television back to another lower court for reconsideration. The Fox case centered on profane exclamations at live awards telecasts. Both Supreme Court rulings were made on very narrow grounds that the FCC did not overstep its regulatory authority by deciding to go after those fleeting things.
John Eggerton, Washington Bureau Chief for Broadcasting and Cable Magazine and a multichannel news, says broadcasters were hoping for guidance on what might be permissible as say accidents.
Mr. JOHN EGGERTON (Washington Bureau Chief, Broadcasting and Cable Magazine): The networks never said, well look, the FCC for 30 years has been not going after fleeting both profanity and nudity, in both those cases, and now they suddenly are. And the court basically said, well, okay, but they can do that.
COLE: Fox TV also argued that the fleeting expletives were protected speech under the first amendment. The high court chose not to take up the broader constitutional question, but it likely will if the lower courts stand by their earlier rulings and the FCC chooses to appeal again. John Eggerton thinks even the commission is looking for a little guidance.
Mr. EGGERTON: I don't think the FCC is going to run out and suddenly make decisions on the hundreds of thousands - that I understand, of complaints -that they have had, because I'm not sure they still have the direction and they have a lot of other things to worry about, frankly.
COLE: Like the nationwide switch next month from analog to digital television.
Tom Cole, NPR News.
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