- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2004

Last night, I dreamed I had an exclusive interview with Janet Jackson’s bra:

Q. Thank you for agreeing to open up to our audience.

A. You’re welcome. I need the exposure.

Q. The world is waiting to hear the real reason Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s right breast in front of a worldwide television audience during the halftime show at the Super Bowl.

A. Justin Timberlake? Talk about boobs… .

Q. Nevertheless, Miss Jackson claims she and Mr. Timberlake planned what she called the “costume reveal,” as she put it, without telling CBS or MTV, which produced the halftime show, and that he was only to expose you — her bra — not her anatomy. So, was it really a “costume malfunction,” as Mr. Timberlake says, or do you have a built-in, breakaway cup?

A. Sorry. I don’t mean to titillate you, but my clips are sealed — like Victoria’s Secret.

Q. Whatever the cause, CBS network apologized, saying, “The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards.” Do you feel at all responsible?

A. Oh? They did, did they? And what did “conform” to their “standards” during the Super Bowl? The Bud Lite beer ad with the crotch-biting dog? The ad for Chevy’s new pickup with the swearing schoolchildren? How about that other Bud Lite ad, the one that featured a horse breaking wind in a young woman’s face? Sweet.

And, if you’re looking for something to hide from the kids, how about the commercial for Cialis, the potency drug with its warnings about four-hour erections? What do you say when your child asks, “Daddy, what’s ‘erectile dysfunction?’ ”

Q. Nevertheless, Michael K. Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), was apoplectic after he saw the program. He launched an investigation of your, uh, coming out and of the rest of the halftime show to determine if it violated federal indecency standards.

A. What if it did? What are the penalties?

Q. Well, each of the 200 stations owned or affiliated with Viacom, which owns MTV and CBS, could face up to $27,500 in fines.

A. That much? And how much does one, just one 30-second commercial on the Super Bowl cost?

Q. This year, about $2.3 million.

A. Right. Somehow I don’t think I hear the network executives quaking in their Guccis.

Q. Nevertheless, networks don’t want to push the FCC, especially over a breast. The FCC giveth licenses and the FCC taketh away, when they get really upset. President Bush already has endorsed a bill to increase the maximum fine tenfold to $275,000.

Q. Did President Bush see the halftime show?

A. He says he missed it. He told reporters he turned the game off after the first half and went to bed. He had to get up early the next day.

A. Right. That’s about as credible as Timberlake’s blaming a “costume malfunction” for Janet’s exposed ta-ta.

Q. Anyway, the FCC says it may fine broadcasters per incident, not per program. That could expose the Super Bowl show to multiple penalties. So far, the largest cumulative fine was $1.7 million, which Infinity Broadcasting paid in 1995 for various violations by Howard Stern.

A. Ah, yes, Howard. Doing what he can to discourage underwear, on radio and cable TV. The grown-ups there in Washington may not know it, but there wasn’t anything in the rest of that halftime show that couldn’t be seen on MTV or on the regular broadcast networks any night of the week.

Q. Are you concerned at all about political repercussions from this episode?

A. The government has bigger bloopers to worry about. But this is an election year. To many people, especially in Mr. Bush’s conservative base, there is no issue bigger than what they see as the collapse of America’s moral underpinnings. To them, injecting booty-licious shake dancers into the Super Bowl, the nation’s biggest secular celebration, stepped over the line.

Q. But, surely you don’t think conservatives are the only people who object to seeing bare breasts on prime-time TV, do you?

A. Absolutely not. All decent people do. That’s why I call on everyone to wear nice and appropriate underwear.

Q. What do you think broadcasters should do now?

A. Trust, but keep a sturdy hand on the 10-second delay switch when they have publicity-hungry pop stars on the air. Better yet, a 20-second delay. Or maybe a half-hour delay. Now that we have crossed the breast barrier, who knows what somebody will try to reveal next?

Q. Thank you for your time.

A. You’re welcome. I hope I was uplifting.

Clarence Page is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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