Tuesday, September 7, 2004 Posted: 7:33 PM EDT (2333 GMT)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Pop singer Janet Jackson's bare breast flash earlier this year will result in a record $550,000 fine for 20 CBS television stations, U.S. Federal Communications Commission officials said Tuesday.
The five FCC commissioners have voted to accept a staff recommendation to fine the 20 television stations that CBS owns $27,500 each but let the remaining 200-plus CBS affiliates escape penalty, according to the officials, who declined to be identified. The commissioners' voting was completed last week.
Jackson caused a stir in February when fellow singer Justin Timberlake ripped part of her costume exposing her breast during the halftime show of the Super Bowl championship football game that aired on CBS in February.
After an enormous outcry from lawmakers and parents' groups, the FCC launched a probe into whether federal decency regulations were violated and began a crackdown on other sexually explicit antics on television and radio.
The FCC was unanimous in voting to fine the 20 stations owned by CBS, which is a unit of media conglomerate Viacom Inc. , but at least one FCC commissioner questioned letting the other stations that aired the show off the hook.
Although the commissioners have finished voting on their decision, it will not be formally announced for several days while the commissioners finish writing their public statements, the FCC officials said.
FCC spokesman Richard Diamond declined to comment.
"We would be extremely disappointed in such a ruling," said CBS spokesman Dana McClintock. "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."
In addition to owning CBS, Viacom also owns the MTV cable network which produced the now-controversial halftime show. But the FCC is only authorized to apply decency rules to broadcast stations.
CBS and MTV have said they did not know in advance of the singers' stunt, but parents groups have said the incident could have been kept off the air if the network had implemented a tape delay system.
U.S. regulations bar television and radio stations from airing obscene material and also limit showing indecent material to late night hours when children are less likely to be watching or listening.
FCC staff recommended in June that the 20 television stations owned by CBS receive the maximum fine of $27,500 each, which a senior FCC official said was a record for one incident when added up, but the staff did not urge a financial penalty for the other stations.
Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, questioned why the agency did not address all the stations that aired the show, according to one official.
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