Indecency Again Elevated at Superbowl

Eight years after Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” that sparked a furor leading to a ten-fold increase in the amount broadcasters may be fined for the airing of indecent content, another performer decided to use the Superbowl halftime stage to draw attention to herself through obscenity.

While Madonna was the star of this year’s halftime performance, it was not she but one of her co-perfomers, British singer M.I.A, who stirred the controversy.  M.I.A. saluted the record-setting 111 million television audience with her middle finger while in the center of the camera shot.  NBC and the NFL both apologized and pointed to the problems of each other in preventing the indecent broadcast.

Notably, the Supreme Court heard arguments last month for and against restrictions on indecency on the broadcast airwaves.  While the Justices have not yet ruled on FCC v Fox, they sounded concerned.  Justice Antonin Scalia stated, “[I]f… these are public airwaves, the government is entitled to insist upon a certain modicum of decency.”  And Chief Justice Roberts noted, “All we are asking for… is a few channels where… they are not going to hear the S word, the F word. They are not going to see nudity.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations