FCC regulations don’t cover much either

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 9, 2004

I did not witness the actual “wardrobe malfunction,” but MSNBC,FOX News and CNN have fed us enough replays and discussion aboutthe event to know it cannot be blamed on the seamstress.

Last Sunday night’s halftime performance was just one of manytasteless and uncomfortable TV events surrounding the Super Bowl. Iguess it depends on the company you keep during the Super Bowl, butcrotch-biting dogs, gaseous horses and dysfunctions of the physicalsort are generally not items I prefer to view with mydaughters.

The day before the Super Bowl, I came upon a news story aboutone of the pregame events involving the players. The angle of thestory was the temptation the players face before the big game andhow they cope with those temptations. Front and center of the piecewas a woman delicately being painted with body paint. Her “clothingmalfunction” was a bit more revealing, although hidden under alayer of latex paint. Granted, it was a news event and being in thenews business, I found the need to watch it closely.

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Judging from the public reaction of the last few days, itappears that Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction may be the strawthat broke the camel’s back. The public is frustrated and tired ofthe antics of shock celebs and TV producers trying to buildratings.

The Federal Communication Commission is being overrun withcomplaints and is proposing a fine against CBS and each of their TVaffiliates that could approach $6 million. Several congressmen,including our own Chip Pickering, are voicing outrage anddisappointment to FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

While all this is well and good, it should be pointed out thatthe regulatory arm of the FCC only stretches to broadcast TV andradio. Cable and satellite TV do not use the public airways andthus are considered private. So while CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX have tobe careful, MTV and all other cable or satellite networks are freeto effectively do as they please under the protection of the FirstAmendment.

Congress can call for more regulatory oversight of the broadcastTV industry, but the reality is that with the 100 plus TV channelsavailable on any cable or satellite system, the FCC oversees aboutas much as Janet Jackson’s silver pastie.

I guess at this point it should be pointed out that MTV, theproducer of the Super Bowl halftime show, is the same MTV thatformer Brookhavenite Bob Pittman founded back in the early 1980s.Bob has long since left MTV.

Where will we go from here?

Elvis started the whole thing back in the 1950s. They warned usback then that his gyrations were bad, and TV networks wereforbidden to show the King from the waist down.

Now we have Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and wardrobemalfunctions. Somewhere we have to find a happy medium.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.