- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

TV network CBS, reeling from the scandalous performance by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during the Super Bowl halftime show, said yesterday it will add an extra delay to its live broadcast Sunday of the Grammy Awards, which will feature appearances by the pop stars.

The network and the Federal Communications Commission, which is investigating Sunday’s halftime show, continued to field complaints from viewers yesterday, while on Capitol Hill the uproar over the show sped up efforts to sharply increase fines for broadcasters that air indecent material.

Miss Jackson, whose right breast was exposed when Mr. Timberlake ripped off her bodice cup in front of almost 100 million television viewers at the end of the halftime show, will present an award at the Grammys. Mr. Timberlake will perform.

“Both these artists will appear at the Grammys on Sunday as scheduled,” said Ron Roecker, a spokesman for the Recording Academy, which organizes the ceremony honoring the year’s best musicians.

In a statement, CBS said it will boost its ability to edit “any inappropriate and unexpected events” during the Grammys. The network traditionally delays its broadcast by five seconds to delete last-minute surprises; the length of the new delay has not been determined.

Those complaining about the halftime show incident “are not the screamers, not the shriekers we often hear from,” Bob Lee, chairman of the CBS Affiliate Board, told Bloomberg News in a radio interview.

The American Family Association and other groups urged their members to complain to the FCC and lawmakers. In its message, the association cited other examples of lewd behavior during the halftime show, including a striptease by women dressed as cheerleaders.

The FCC investigation began Monday, when the agency sent CBS a written request for an explanation for the halftime show’s content. The FCC will focus on the incident involving Miss Jackson and Mr. Timberlake, although it also will explore other portions of the program, according to an FCC official who asked to not be named.

Central to the agency’s investigation will be determining how much of the performance was scripted. Miss Jackson said in a statement late Monday that the stunt was done without the knowledge of MTV, which produced the program for its corporate cousin, CBS. Both networks are owned by Viacom.

“We were ‘punk’d’ by Janet Jackson,” said Tom Freston, chairman and chief executive of MTV Networks, referring to an MTV show that makes celebrities the butt of practical jokes.

The FCC wants a prompt reply from CBS, the official said. “We expect some answers within the week.”

If the FCC rules that the broadcast violated federal indecency standards, it is not clear how the agency would penalize the network. The FCC’s maximum fine for indecency is $27,500; it could fine the network, or it could choose to fine each of the stations that carried the halftime show individually, one official said.

The uproar accelerated efforts on Capitol Hill to multiply fines tenfold for broadcasters that air indecent material. A bill sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, that would raise the maximum fine of $27,500 per violation to $275,000 was on a fast track even before the Super Bowl.

“Now it’s gone from Mach 3 to Mach 6,” said Sean C. Bonyun, Mr. Upton’s spokesman. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet is expected to hold a hearing on the bill in the next few weeks. But Mr. Bonyun said he did not know if the panel will ask anyone involved in the Super Bowl incident to testify.

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