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FCC Levies Max Flash-Dance Fine for Viacom's CBS Stations

Janet Jackson's split-second Super Bowl flash dance will cost Viacom $550,000. The FCC this week levied the maximum indecency fine of $27,500 for each of the 20 Viacom-owned CBS affiliates.

CBS circled the wagons immediately after the broadcast by apologizing and slapping a five-minute delay on the Grammys. Jackson and her duet partner, Justin Timberlake, also issued statements saying neither Viacom-owned MTV, which produced the half-time show, nor CBS, knew about the "costume reveal."

The FCC would have none of it.

"The Commission found that this partial nudity was, in the context of the broadcast, in apparent violation of the broadcast indecency standard. It proposed the statutory maximum amount against each of the Viacom-owned CBS licensees of the 20 television stations that aired the show due to the involvement of Viacom/CBS in the planning and approval of the telecast and the history of indecency violations committed by Viacom's Infinity Broadcasting Corp. subsidiaries," the FCC release stated.

Other non-Viacom owned CBS affiliates were let off the hook, ostensibly because they had no idea Jackson was going to reveal her breast during the half-time show.

A total of 542,000 complaints about the broadcast rolled in, and not all of them about Ms. Jackson's anatomy lesson. People weren't too happy with Kid Rock wearing a poncho made from an American flag, but the FCC noted that flag-wearing is not actionable. Nudity, however, is a different story, and the FCC apparently took great pains to confirm that nudity did, indeed, occur, based on astute observations of the videotape:

"Our review of the broadcast videotape and the script, which CBS represents to depict the content of the actual broadcast, reveals that the halftime segment consisted of a series of musical performances on a stage situated on the playing field," the FCC said in its Notice of Apparent Liability. "Included was a performance by Janet Jackson, in which she wore a black leather and studded outfit, similar to those worn by the male and female dancers who participated in her performance. She was soon joined by Justin Timberlake for a duet of "Rock Your Body," during which he urged her in the song to allow him to "rock your body" and "just let me rock you 'til the break of day" while following her around the stage and, on several occasions, grabbing and rubbing up against her. At the close of the song, immediately after singing the lyrics, "gonna have you naked by the end of this song," Mr. Timberlake pulled off the right portion of Ms. Jackson's bustier, exposing her breast."