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Super Bowl Indecency Decision in Spotlight after NBC Bird Fumble

By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. on February 07, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Once again, another Super Bowl is overshadowed by the shenanigans of its half-time performers. First it was Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl, and now it's singer M.I.A.'s bird-flipping during the 2012 Super Bowl.

In the midst of all the screams of moral corruption, the spotlight has returned to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to toss the FCC's $550,000 indecency fine against CBS for broadcasting Jackson's nipple-slip because the FCC "improperly imposed a penalty on CBS for violating a previously unannounced policy."

At the time, we guessed that it wouldn't be the final word in the matter, and we're sad we didn't put money on that prediction with the most recent halftime-show uproar.

Given the Third Circuit's opinion and the Supreme Court's decision to rehear FCC v. Fox Television to determine whether the FCC's indecency standards are too vague to be constitutional, it's no surprise that the FCC will be handling "Fingergate" more cautiously.

Since the infamous Jackson "wardrobe malfunction," the FCC has resumed indecency investigations after a temporary hiatus, but always includes the caveat that "subsequent court decisions...have again raised questions about the commission's indecency authority."

For now, each station that broadcast M.I.A.'s middle digit could be looking at a fine of up to $325,000, according to The Atlantic Wire. It used to be $275,000, but the fine was bumped up thanks to Jackson's indecent exposure.

Between the performers' penchant to improvise on stage and indecency enforcement stuck in purgatory, Super Bowl shenanigans have definitely been the judicial gift that keeps on giving.

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