The Supreme Court decided not to review the dismissal of the Federal Communication Commission’s case against CBS in Janet Jackson’s 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” debacle, bringing “Nipplegate” to an official end.
A lower court twice threw out the FCC’s $555,000 fine against the CBS network for airing Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime show, in which Justin Timberlake ripped off part of the singer’s clothing, exposing her bare breast. CBS successfully argued that the FCC’s policy of excusing fleeting instances of indecent images and words changed without notice in March 2004, a month after Jackson’s halftime act—a move the judges agreed made the FCC’s actions against CBS “arbitrary and capricious.”
Though it refused to hear the FCC’s appeal in the “wardrobe malfunction” case, Chief Justice John Roberts did acknowledge that the FCC no longer makes exceptions for fleeting moments of indecency on the airwaves and has the right, from here on out, to censure broadcasters for airing cursing and nudity.
CBS said in a statement that it was happy to finally put Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” case behind it. “It’s been more than eight years since we expressed deep regret for the Super Bowl halftime show,” the statement said. “Since then, all we ever sought was an affirmation of the long-established policy of balanced, consistent and deliberate indecency enforcement the FCC had followed for decades before the incident.”