First Amendment

3rd Circuit Weighs Indecency Fine

Oral arguments are scheduled for tomorrow in CBS’ appeal of a $550,000 record fine for Janet Jackson’s exposure of her right breast during a Superbowl halftime show.

David Solomon, a media partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer in Washington, D.C., told Legal Times that the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will first have to decide whether the incident qualifies for punishment. “The threshold issue is whether the material is even indecent at all,” he says. “I think there’s a good chance the [government] could lose on the issue of whether it’s indecent.”

CBS argues the brief display was not particularly graphic and wasn’t caused by the network’s “willful or repeated” actions. CBS says the Federal Communications Commission imposed the fine because of intense political pressure, and failed to determine whether the incident violated broader community standards.

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