A Half-Second of Nipple Is Not Indecency

The Associated Press reports (via that a federal appeals court has tossed the half-million dollar fine levied by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against CBS for the brief (9/16ths of a second) display of Janet Jackson’s right nipple on national television in 2004. The court ruled that a brief exposure unintentionally broadcast does not amount to actionable indecency.

I’ve said it a few times before, but I’ll say it again: Janet Jackson’s nipple didn’t hurt anybody. It might be news to the censorship brigades at the FCC and elsewhere, but most people—even children!—have nipples, know what they look like, and aren’t particularly bothered by them.

Having said that, CBS and the NFL should have used discretion when green-lighting a halftime show that was pretty raunchy (and vacuous, even by halftime standards) to be broadcast to potentially millions of children. I concede that point without debate. But poor discretion and an unintentional 9/16ths-of-a-second display of a nipple on national television is not an actionable offense for the FCC to issue fines over. Adults can choose to not watch, nor let their children watch, CBS programming from now on if it’s really that big an issue.

Better yet, talk to your children. Teach them. Don’t focus so much on ‘protecting’ them from reality, try teaching them how to handle reality. That’s how they grow up to be well-adjusted adults, unlike those who went crying to mommy-government-FCC when they saw a nipple on TV for a fraction of a second.

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.