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Indecent exposure on the boob tube?

Some things are better left to the imagination, but apparently pop diva Janet Jackson thinks her pierced nipple shouldn’t be one of them. Co-workers drained water coolers across the country this week after watching Janet “Ms. Jackson, If You’re Nasty” reveal her right breast during the Super Bowl XXXVIII half-time show. It went down as the most TiVo-ed moment in history.

While MTV, which produced the show, promised “shocking moments” beforehand, network executives maintain they had no clue the stunt would be — for lack of a better term — pulled off. Justin Timberlake, the night’s surprise performer, was ending his duet with Jackson while singing “Rock Your Body.” Just as Timberlake sang “Bet I have you naked by the end of this song,” he reached over with his left hand and tore off a piece of Jackson’s costume.

In an apology, Timberlake coined the soon-to-be-overused phrase “wardrobe malfunction.” “I am sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl,” he said. “It was not intentional and is regrettable.”


A day later, Jackson released a different statement.

“The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my halftime show performance was made after final rehearsals,” she said Monday. “MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did. I apologize to anyone offended — including the audience, MTV, CBS and the NFL.”

So Jackson fulfilled her diva icon image by giving the people a peek of her boob. I think MTV allowed worse things to happen during the pre-Super Bowl hype, like letting Kelis sing “Milkshake” live during “TRL at the Super Bowl.” Her performance was so bad it made me feel lactose intolerant.

Jackson’s exposed nipple caused the latest ripple in the wave to fight indecency that’s sweeping across the country. Last week, it was Tampa’s “Bubba the Love Sponge” for broadcasting sexually explicit segments on his morning radio show. Last year, Federal Communications Commissioners fell off their rockers when U2’s Bono used the “F-word” during the Golden Globe Awards. Eventually, that was found to be okay. Bono used it as an adjective, not in a sexual context, so he violated no federal standards for broadcast indecency.

So who gets to determine what’s decent? Is it government, which obviously has been lacking for years and seems to be rushing to play catch up with recent pressure from Congress?

Is it my mother? She’d likely suggest everyone turn off the television anyway to study the Bible. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Mom.

(P.S. I love you.)

Or maybe it’s grandparents, who have been around the block and back enough times to see a complete evolution of what standards our culture prefers. If it’s my grandma, God bless her heart, we’re in trouble. She has trouble remembering where she lives most of the time.

It seems the FCC has also been victim of some memory problems, forgetting why it was commissioned.

President George W. Bush said last week that he would support the FCC in levying a higher fine against Bubba and Clear Channel. Freedom of expression and speech still reign in this country, and I don’t think Bush’s comments pose any immediate threat. But the possibility exists.

The FCC has failed for too long to do its job in holding entertainers and networks responsible for meeting high expectations. Vulgarity didn’t start permeating the airwaves with Sunday’s flash dance. It’s lived in our homes through our televisions (called the one-eyed monster, by some) for years.

The problem isn’t with Janet Jackson, Bono or Bubba. It’s with the FCC.

Until commissioners become consistent with their expectations and enforcement of regulations, viewers and listeners can expect the wave of vulgarity to continue.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief.