“That celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt,” Powell said in a statement. “Our nation’s children, parents and citizens deserve better.”
Television networks are already on the defensive, with the FCC taking a more aggressive stand against indecency over the airwaves and Congress threatening to sharply raise the fines for such incidents.
Viacom Inc.’s CBS television network, which aired the show, and MTV, which produced the halftime bonanza, apologized for what they described as an unscripted moment.
A spokesman for CBS had no immediate comment on the probe and a Viacom spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
“We attended all rehearsals throughout the week and there was no indication that any such thing would happen,” CBS said. “The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards and we would like to apologize to anyone who was offended.”
Powell promised a “thorough and swift” investigation by the agency’s enforcement division. Scores of complaints were coming in to the FCC about Jackson and other portions of the entertainment segment of the game.
When the FCC was bombarded with complaints about the fashion show by lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret that aired on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC broadcast network in 2001, the agency declined to take action because the material was not “so graphic or explicit as to be patently offensive.”
CBS picked up the lingerie show after ABC reportedly declined to air the fashion show the following year. As part of a tougher stance against indecency at times when children are likely to be watching, the FCC is considering action against General Electric Co.’s NBC television network for an incident in which U2 rocker Bono said “f—ing brilliant” when accepting an award on a live broadcast.