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FCC to investigate display of nudity from MTV-produced Super Bowl broadcast

HOUSTON (BP)–The Federal Communications Commission has opened an investigation into the broadcast of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show and has promised the probe will be “thorough and swift.”

“I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement Feb. 2. “Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation’s children, parents and citizens deserve better.”

White House spokesman Scott McClellan would not say whether President Bush believes fines should be imposed. During a press briefing Feb. 2, McClellan directed most questions toward the FCC.

“Our view is that it’s important for families to be able to expect a high standard when it comes to programming,” McClellan said.

The investigation follows an MTV-produced halftime performance by Janet Jackson and her guest Justin Timberlake. After dancing provocatively to his song called “Rock Your Body,” Timberlake pulled off a piece of her outfit and exposed Jackson’s right breast in front of more than 72,000 fans and more than 100 million television viewers.

Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham attended the Super Bowl and was on the second row at the 50-yard line.

“[The incident] was a public exhibition of the disregard for virtue, innocence, purity and true love in our present society,” Graham said in a statement to Baptist Press. “Yet, while we express our displeasure with such a display of sexually explicit behaviors, we also express love and compassion for a generation of young people who are saturated by this sex-crazed culture.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the NFL should have used more discretion in hiring a halftime producer.

“When you lie down with mangy dogs, you will get up with fleas,” Land said in a statement released to Baptist Press. “And when you contract your halftime show out to an extremely raunchy, push-the-envelope conglomerate like MTV, whose moral compass has been totally demagnetized, you get what you paid for — an R-rated, hedonistic exhibition of human depravity.”

Land said families are left in an awkward position in the wake of the racy halftime show.

“Of course the big losers coming out of Super Bowl XXXVIII are parents all over the country who are left trying to explain these halftime antics to their young children,” he said. “There was nothing super about the NFL’s halftime extravaganza.”

FCC Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy joined Powell in expressing dismay over the incident and said she is pleased the commission is proceeding with an investigation.

“I am shocked and dismayed about what occurred during the halftime show of the Super Bowl,” Abernathy said in a statement. “Particularly during an event that families and children watch together, Americans should not have to tolerate such a gratuitous display of nudity. Broadcasters should have more respect for their viewers and exercise a greater degree of social responsibility than what was shown last night.”

When the incident happened, CBS cameras quickly cut away from the shot and did not mention the incident on air. But the nation was abuzz with talk and replays of the stunt the next morning.

MTV has denied it knew what was going to happen.

“The tearing of Janet Jackson’s costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance,” MTV said in a statement. “MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”

But a Jan. 28 story on MTV’s website promised “shocking moments” during Janet Jackson’s performance, and her choreographer made similar comments in a recent interview, according to the New York Daily News.

Timberlake also released a statement diverting blame.

“I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl,” he said. “It was not intentional and is regrettable.”

The NFL voiced dissatisfaction with MTV’s production of the halftime show.

“We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show,” Joe Browne, NFL executive vice president, said. “They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show. It’s unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime.”

CBS officials also said they were shocked by the incident.

“CBS deeply regrets the incident that occurred during the Super Bowl halftime,” CBS said in a statement. “We attended all rehearsals during the week, and there was no indication any such thing would happen.”

In addition to the nudity, many viewers were offended by Kid Rock’s wearing of an American flag cut into a poncho. The flag was cut in the center with a hole for his head, and after singing a few lines he ripped the flag off and threw it behind him. Kid Rock’s behavior has been far less publicized than Timberlake’s and Jackson’s but actually is a violation of federal law.

“No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform,” according to the United States Code, Title 4, Section 8, paragraph (j). “However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.”

Graham called on churches to be more aggressive in the fight against darkness in today’s society.

“More than ever, it is vitally important that our churches strive to reach this generation with the hope of Jesus Christ,” he said. “While we see many young people attracted to this decadent lifestyle, I still believe there is a new generation of Christian young people who are coming on and making an impact for the Lord. …

“I encourage all of our Southern Baptist churches to pray how we can engage our youth ministries to overcome evil with good,” Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, added. “We are to be a light shining in darkness. And seeing all that the world has to offer, we know we have something so much better.”
With reporting by Michael Foust.

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