After the first half of Super Bowl XXXIII on Sunday, football fans gathered round their television sets ready to watch the all-star lineup of the MTV halftime show. At the end of the show, approximately 89 million viewers, as reported by Nielson Media Research, witnessed an unexpected surprise. Pop star Justin Timberlake ripped singer Janet Jackson’s bodice, briefly reveling a sun-shaped “nipple shield” over an otherwise bare breast. Even with MTV hosting the halftime extravaganza, which was expected to be edgy, this stunt went to far.
The halftime show, as much a part of Super Bowl Sunday as the game itself, suddenly degenerated into an over-revealing and uncensored act. As Michael Powell, chief of the Federal Communications Commission, stated, “Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, the celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt.”
As a result of the incident, Powell promised a “thorough and swift” investigation FCC guidelines clearly state that indecent material cannot be shown during hours when children would be likely to watch TV, specifically between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. According to MTV and CBS, when the performance was going through final rehearsals, neither company knew of the plans for such an act to occur. The Associated Press reports, chairman and CEO of MTV networks Tom Freston explained, “Janet Jackson isn’t the type of person you would think would be doing that. So yes, we were surprised, but such is the nature of what live TV can be.”
People may wonder why this particular event caused such a commotion in an age when a Victoria’s Secret lingerie fashion show is televised nationally. While the lingerie giant met with protests from family activist groups, Victoria’s fashion show was a planned event, not a surprise. Commercials that aired warned anyone who likely to be offened ahead of time, and while it did run during “prime time” showing hours, it was toward the end of the evening. Not to mention the fact that it wasn’t televised smack in the middle of one of the most watched events in the world.
In order to avoid such mishaps in the future, Freston admitted to AP that the FCC will have to be “more on their toes.” He said he clearly knows the difference between late night MTV and the Super Bowl halftime show. Joe Brown, executive vice president for the NFL told AP that it was “unlikely” that MTV would be producing another halftime show. We can only hope the performers chosen for next year will provide viewers with a more tasteful program that is suitable for families to view and that the FCC will stay true to its word and investigate the matter further to prevent future occurrences.