“Costume malfunction” impacts live telecasts

February 9, 2004

Leslie Moonves, CBS Television president, told the New York Post that singer Janet Jackson’s “costume malfunction” at Super Bowl XXXVIII “set back live production,” and that she “hijacked[ed] our broadcast.”

In the face of impending government fines and viewer backlash, the infamous breast-baring event has caused virtually every broadcaster to rethink their live telecasts and add technology to circumvent similar occurrences on TV.

Moonves, whose network used a video delay system on yesterday's Grammy awards, said Jackson’s performance “won’t help live edgy musical acts anymore.” CBS is taking heat from FCC chairman Michael Powell, who said he was offended by the entire Super Bowl half-time show and has ordered an investigation as to whether indecency rules were violated.

ABC said it would implement an audio and video delay of undetermined length for its domestic broadcast of the Academy Awards February 29. The controversial move prompted immediate concern from motion picture academy officials who feared the network might use the technology to suppress politically controversial comments such as those by last year’s Academy Award winner Michael Moore against George Bush and his war in Iraq.

The broadcast fiasco also affected NBC, which decided to remove a glimpse of an elderly patient’s breast in an episode of “ER.” The network said Wednesday it had “unfortunately concluded that the atmosphere created by this week’s events has made it too difficult for many of our affiliates to air this shot.”

Likewise TNT will delay its NBA All-Star Game telecast February 15.

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