WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission refused to reconsider on Wednesday its decision to fine 20 CBS television stations a total of $550,000 for airing pop singer Janet Jackson’s breast flash in 2004.
The decision sets up a likely court battle over the FCC’s attempt to crack down on indecent content broadcast on television and radio.
Jackson briefly exposed her breast during the Super Bowl football halftime show, sparking an outrage among some lawmakers and parents groups and provoking regulators to impose the fine on CBS for violating U.S. decency standards.
"The commission affirms its finding that CBS’ violation was willful and declines to reduce the forfeiture imposed upon CBS," the agency said in a statement.
"We find that CBS has failed to present any argument warranting reconsideration of our forfeiture order," the FCC said. The agency penalized only those television stations owned by CBS since it helped produce the show.
U.S. regulations bar television and radio stations from airing indecent material, such as profanity or sexually explicit content, except after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m. when children are less likely to be watching or listening.
"We continue to disagree with the FCC’s finding that the broadcast was legally indecent," CBS said in a statement. "We will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights."
CBS appealed the decision last month along with another FCC ruling that proposed $3.3 million in fines against 103 of its stations for airing an episode of the show "Without a Trace" that depicted teenagers engaged in group sex.
CBS apologized for the Jackson incident, in which pop singer Justin Timberlake ended their duet by ripping off part of Jackson’s top and exposing her breast for a brief moment.
Nonetheless, CBS argued that the FCC wrongly applied the decency standard, that the show was not intended to pander, titillate or shock, and the incident did not violate contemporary community standards.