Monday, July 21, 2008

Janet Jackson's Breast Unfined: US Appeals Court Stops the FCC Trampling the First Amendment

Score a big one for the First Amendment today.

"The First Amendment precludes the FCC from sanctioning CBS for the indecent expressive conduct" of Janet Jackson's nine-sixteenths-of-a-second exposed breast, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today, and in striking down the FCC's obscene $550,000 fine, the Federal appeals court not only saved CBS lots of money, but struck a blow for freedom of expression on television, and media in general.

It's good to remember that this current reign of FCC terror, in which fines of millions of dollars have been levied by the FCC against offending media, was ignited by that split second of Janet Jackson's breast in the Super Bowl Halftime show on CBS in 2004. The FCC said it received more than a million complaints from outraged Americans about indecent broadcasts that year, and even though it was later revealed that at least half were instigated by Brent Bozell's Parents Television Council (see my debate with Bozell below), the race to trample the First Amendment was on.

Today's decision focused on the special absurdity of going ballistic over split seconds - fleeting appearances - of images.

The Supreme Court will be deciding a case on fleeting words in the Fall.

We have a long way to go. But America has finally stepped back from the stampede to censorship. Hats off to the 3rd Circuit Court.

Brent Bozell v. Paul Levinson on the First Amendment, November 11, 2004

See also The Flouting of the First Amendment

and my interview about this ruling, in the Los Angeles Times
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