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Wardrobe Malfunction, Obscenity Or Censorship Malfunction?

from the fcc-appeals dept

Earlier this year, a court tossed out the FCC's fine on CBS for Janet Jackson's infamous Superbowl half time show "wardrobe malfunction." As the court noted, the FCC's reasoning for the fine showed an arbitrary decision that did not fit with any existing guidelines. However, it appears the FCC disagrees and is now appealing the ruling to the Supreme Court, saying that it was the court, not the FCC, that misapplied indecency rules. Of course, we're still wondering why this matters nearly five years after the incident.


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  1.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 24th, 2008 @ 5:14am

    "Of course, we're still wondering why this matters nearly five years after the incident."

    There's a lot of people wondering why it even mattered in the first place.

     

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  2.  
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    Norm, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 5:19am

    Why not fine Janet and Justin?

    After all it was them who did it? Besides we didn't even see her nipple did we? That darn star thing was in the way.

     

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  3.  
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    Paul, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 5:41am

    Yeah, pasties should be banned on national TV!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 5:47am

    This could be a good thing

    The "obscenity filters" on US television are a bit backwards. You can see some very disturbing and graphic images on just basic TV (see the first episode of Fringe on Hulu or somewhere else to see what I'm talking about) but you can't see nudity.

    It seems totally arbitrary and I'm chalking it up to Protestant and Quaker values that date back to the colonies. Even that seems a bit strange/far fetched but its the only excuse I can see.

    It's like Left4Dead. We can have a game full of zombies that you have to kill before they eat you, but the second someone mentions kids got turned into zombies and you can kill kid zombies they freak out and threaten to ban the game.

    It's like, hello, the zombies don't look much like people. Walking dead things tend to be a bit creepy and not human looking even if they have the general shape.

    Blah. Censorship is retarded. You can't shelter people from things without them turning out deformed in some way.

     

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  5.  
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    Matt, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 5:50am

    Why, exactly, are breasts considered obscene?

     

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  6.  
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    Vincent Clement, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 5:59am

    Waste of Time and Money

    So, in the middle of a financial crisis, you have a federal agency wasting taxpayer money by appealing the decision of a federal court. Wonderful.

     

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  7.  
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    Vincent Clement, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 5:59am

    Re:

    Heck, nudity shouldn't be considered obscene. We are all born naked.

     

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  8.  
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    Boobie Activist, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:14am

    Boobies

    America wouldn't be so sex-addicted if nudity wasn't so carefully censored. I agree that violence - some really messed up stuff - is being shown without issue. We're too far on one and not enough on the other. Why do they allow very violent previews of upcoming R rated movies to be played in the middle of a PG rated TV show? No warning.

    Being a Christian myself - I'm sorry to say, I think it's our fault. We're brought up that any mention of sex in any context is shameful, even something so benign as simple nudity. So, when we see it - unexpectedly - we are instantly take out of our comfort zone.

    The complaints are from people who took it personally - who feel that they should always be in their comfort zone. They don't care that it was Janet, or if it was on purpose or not. A little warning is all they were looking for, but we all know that isn't possible for every instance.

    The point is, that if America wasn't so careful to censor nudity, it wouldn't be a big deal - and in Janet's case, funny, not offensive.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:14am

    boobs and willies! boobs boobs and willies!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:18am

    Naked

    Because every government agency knows that if you make a big deal about something, then it's a big deal. It's their way of feeling in power or something.

    Heck, if the FCC had it's way, they'd give the death penalty for anyone being naked anywhere at anytime and being retroactive. This would be the benefit of making mass genocide of the human race an obscenity issue.

     

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  11.  
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    jonnyq, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:20am

    CBS/Viacom should be responsible for making sure that their show lives up to its rating. Yes, the rating system is privately regulated, but when they say what a show contains, and then it contains something else, they should be responsible to some degree.

    That said, the FCC's system of making up rules as it goes should absolutely be thrown out.

    It still matters (5 years after the incident) because it sets a precedent these matters especially as they relate to live television.

    (Note that basically makes me in favor of whatever they want to show as long as it's rated appropriately.)

     

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  12.  
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    Jeff Whitley, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:33am

    FCC

    The FCC's job is to police what we as viewers see. I agree, agree that a fine should have been applied to some party that was directly involved in the Superbowl incident. Why, it sets presidence, yea its too late now, it won't have the desired impact but this should control, to some degree what is and is not acceptable and that's a good thing.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:46am

    Re: FCC

    But its not... The FCC was not meant to be a decency cop. It was merely meant to make sure that everything plays well with each other on the limited amount of bandwidth/spectrum we have. It has some how taken on this new role.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Communications_Commission

    inb4 tl;dr

    "The FCC was established by the Communications Act of 1934 as the successor to the Federal Radio Commission and is charged with regulating all non-federal government use of the radio spectrum (including radio and television broadcasting), and all interstate telecommunications (wire, satellite and cable) as well as all international communications that originate or terminate in the United States."

     

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  14.  
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    BTR1701, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:46am

    Re: Why not fine Janet and Justin?

    > Why not fine Janet and Justin? After all it was
    > them who did it?

    Because they aren't broadcasters. The law only holds the broadcaster liable.

     

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  15.  
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    BTR1701, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:49am

    Re: FCC

    > The FCC's job is to police what we as viewers see

    No, it most certainly is not. That may be what they've ended up doing but it's not their job, nor their mandate.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 6:51am

    "You can't shelter people from things without them turning out deformed in some way"

    Well, that would explain our Congress

     

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  17.  
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    judsonian, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:01am

    Whats the problem?

    Many of the comments mention that nudity should not be censored. Right. I'm sure that many of the people that complain walked naked though their house at some point that very day. Risking (not wanting) that someone would see them through a cracked windows or their child would see them. Nudity (I feel) is not the problem, even in this scenario. Its control. People want every one to feel and think the same as they do. This is not only impratical but also immpossible. These people foret they are forcing thier views and ideals on other people. It was a breast (with a pastie) not a live sex show. The content of the rest of the show was way worse in my opinion. Not saying I didn't enjoy it. Rediculous!

     

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  18.  
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    GetReal, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:02am

    As a parent, I do care what my kids see, and want to trust that during a show as benign as the super bowl I don't have to deal with inappropriate material for kids. I am not prude, just pragmatic.

    Now in this case, it was an accident - but broadcasters have to be accountable for this, which will cause them to put better process in place to prevent it in the future.

    Before you attack with "what's wrong with nudity", don't bother... go read the volumes that have been written by secular psychologists on the impact of pornography on long term relationships. For those who think long term loyal monogamous relationships are old-fashioned... go have your unrestricted pleasure - just stay away from my kids.

    Lastly, for those who think the FCC rules are arbitrary, and in some cases silly (no nudity, but lots of gratuitous sex as long as they don't show the nipple) - I agree.

     

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  19.  
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    bob, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:14am

    It Matters

    Good god man do you want to see her saggy udder/tit 5 years later?
    That's why it matters!

     

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  20.  
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    giff, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:41am

    Re: part of the problem

    Is your misguided puritanical phobia that nudity equals pornography.

     

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  21.  
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    judsonian, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:44am

    Re: Getreal

    "Before you attack with "what's wrong with nudity", don't bother... go read the volumes that have been written by secular psychologists on the impact of pornography on long term relationships"

    Perfect example .... "nudity" does NOT equal "pornography" There was more pornography going on in the rest of the halftime show that did NOT include nudity ...... you should be ashamed of letting your child watch Justin and Janet dry hump each other on stage .....

     

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  22.  
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    judsonian, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:47am

    Re: It Matters

    And would it be pornography in 5 years? Its not the breast ... it the context in which the viewer percieves. If you think a bare breast is pornograhic you my want to see a Freaudian Psychologist!

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:59am

    Re:

    Before you attack with "what's wrong with nudity", don't bother... go read the volumes that have been written by secular psychologists on the impact of pornography on long term relationships.

    Nudity is not pornography, not by any stretch of your Puritanical imagination. And there was no nudity involved here. Can you say "straw man?"

    For those who think long term [sic] loyal monogamous relationships are old-fashioned... go have your unrestricted pleasure - just stay away from my kids.

    WTF? Who said anything about "unrestricted pleasure" or "monogamous relationships?" This was not on-screen sex, nor was it advocating promiscuity or polygamy. Maybe you should just not watch TV with your children at all, because you seem to have a seriously warped perspective. Do you work for the FCC?

     

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  24.  
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    Carp, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 7:59am

    Re:

    Nudity is equal to pornography? That's a *very* broad definition of pornography, and one I don't think many would agree with.

    Many European cultures are a lot more lax about nudity than the US is, and in many, things like nude beaches are common. Nudity is to be expected and children don't learn to equate nudity with sex.

    I've seen the effect first hand of children being brought up (not by me) without nudity being taboo in their home. The kids are great kids, and I've seen no signs that their morality is far from that of most college age kids these days -- and perhaps they are sexually even a bit conservative.

    So, I find all this commotion around seeing part of a breast kind of silly. It happened, no one was harmed by the experience, now get over it people.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:00am

    Re: Whats the problem?

    Don't you ever wonder what the squiggly red lines under the words you type mean?

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 8:52am

    They show man-ass on prime time TV, but you can't see a boob? Nipples are teh devil!!!

     

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  27.  
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    mike allen, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 9:38am

    FCC

    the fcc should let it drop after all Janet has.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 9:53am

    Nudity

    I've seen full blown nudity on PBS. I really don't see what the issue is. I've seen everything from South American tribes wearing nothing but a bit of twine to a woman giving birth on PBS. If you think the human body is wrong, ma'b you should take it up with your God or stop being human.

     

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  29.  
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    Naked, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 10:38am

    Re: Re:

    I would agree. For starters nudity is in no way related to porn, (we're born naked remember?) Also I do agree that children that are raised without nudity being taboo in their home have possibly better morales than most adults because they aren't as curious or frightened when they see it. And nudity has nothing to do monogamous relationships. (I don't think they're old fashioned either).

     

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  30.  
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    snowburn14, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: Whats the problem?

    Not everyone has a browser with built-in spellcheck, ya know...

     

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  31.  
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    You Get Real, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    Re: Get Reals Comments

    The one thing that bothers me about people like "Get Real" is that they often confuse nudity with Pornography. 2 Completely different things. Its this confusion that leads to BS stuff like the FCC's actions.

    Whether it was an accident or on purpose, what really happened here? A semi nude boob flashed for about a second or 2. Does it really damage your kid? No. He/she can see boobs on Nat geographic half the day. Secondly, I would never read anything by a secular psychologist, cause like you, I'm sure anything thats written is presented from YOUR view point.

    While I do agree that if you don't want to see something like this on TV, a proper rating should be in place. If you don't like it/don't want to watch it, you can make your own informed decision accordingly. However assuming that this was an accident, and investigated properly, do you think a million dollar fine should be enough? Accidents happen. A company can take every precaution in the world and STILL HAVE SOMETHING GO WRONG. Why should they be persecuted for it???

    This is a free country. Lets try and remember that. If I choose to want to watch sex & violence that should be my choice. Not you deciding for me. If you decide thats NOT what YOU want to watch, then so be it. Who am I to tell you how to live (just as who are you to tell me how to live).

    Overall this is just another example of a department of government who thinks that they can do whatever they want and waste the taxpayers money.

     

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  32.  
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    Tony Nicholas, Nov 24th, 2008 @ 12:57pm

    RE Get Real's Comments

    Hey Janet!
    Yes Justin?
    Is That Yer tit?
    Yes Justin!
    That was an accident wasn't it?
    Yes Justin!
    We won't get in trouble, Janet?
    No Justin...

     

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  33.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 24th, 2008 @ 3:15pm

    Re:

    "As a parent, I do care what my kids see, and want to trust that during a show as benign as the super bowl I don't have to deal with inappropriate material for kids. I am not prude, just pragmatic."

    No, but sorry you are a prude for several reasons. First of all, it's your job to parent your kids, not the FCC nor the networks. Yes, it's nice if unsuitable material is avoided, but during a live broadcast you should know that things can - and often do - go wrong. Combine that with the inherent sexuality of pop & rock music, and you end up with a situation where you could have predicted something going wrong. When it did, would your kids have even noticed if it wasn't for the media blitz over the "scandal"?

    Coming from a country where streaking was almost a national pastime during the 80s, it's laughable to think that a nation that allows sexualised teenagers in the form of cheerleaders could get this worked up over a nipple. It never ceases to amaze me how you people get your priorities so wrong - yes, you can watch gang members gun each other down in broad daylight, but don't you dare look at a breast like the one you sucked on for 18 months!

    "Now in this case, it was an accident - but broadcasters have to be accountable for this, which will cause them to put better process in place to prevent it in the future."

    How do they do that exactly? There's no way to prevent accidents if they're truly accidents (though many have doubts about the Jackson incident). Even with delayed broadcasts, things can slip through. Punishing people for honest mistakes does little to prevent them - everybody's human after all.

    "Before you attack with "what's wrong with nudity", don't bother... go read the volumes that have been written by secular psychologists on the impact of pornography on long term relationships. For those who think long term loyal monogamous relationships are old-fashioned... go have your unrestricted pleasure - just stay away from my kids."

    If all that's true, then why do countries like Sweden and Japan, with very lax attitudes towards sex and even fetishes, have relatively low rates of rape and other sexual crime? If pornography is so bad, why have rates of sexual violence in the US decreased over the time that the web's been available (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/hmrt.htm)? Surely, if porn caused sexual crime, those rates would have rocketed since the mid-90s?

    As for "stay away from your kids"... well stay away from everyone else. People like you constantly try to censor and control others, "for the children" while being oblivious to the fact that those of us who haven't decided to breed (or have done so, but manage to censor our own households) have the same rights as your rugrats.

    "Lastly, for those who think the FCC rules are arbitrary, and in some cases silly (no nudity, but lots of gratuitous sex as long as they don't show the nipple) - I agree."

    Cognitive dissonance much? So, according to the rest of your post, you think that even a flash of a nipple is inappropriate and the FCC, the Superbowl organisers and broadcasters have to held accountable, lest your kids turn out to be adulterous rapists. Yet, you denounce the rules that would dictate such censorship as arbitrary? Make up your f***ing mind!

     

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  34.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 24th, 2008 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Re:

    Hmmm... somehow I managed to link to homicide rates rather than rape.... try this:

    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/rape.htm

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 25th, 2008 @ 5:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Whats the problem?

    Seriously? Why not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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