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Jackson's apology can't stem mass anger

2/4/2004

NEW YORK -- CBS, MTV, the NFL, Janet Jackson and Justin
Timberlake all say they're sorry -- but none of that is deterring
the federal government from looking into the Super Bowl's
too-revealing halftime show.

Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell on Monday
promised an investigation into whether CBS violated decency laws,
with potential fines of up to $27,500. If applied to each CBS
station, the fine could reach into the millions.

"Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around
the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was
tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt," Powell said.

He added in interviews Tuesday that other aspects of the racy
halftime show, which also featured such performers as Nelly and Kid
Rock, also bothered him.

"I think everybody's focusing on the finale, but a lot of what
we've heard in terms of complaints and the breadth of the
investigation is a little broader than just that incident," Powell
said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "I personally was offended
by the entire production."

Tom Freston, chairman of MTV Networks, said he welcomed the
FCC's investigation, which he said will prove that the show's
producers and broadcasters had no prior knowledge of the stunt. MTV
produced the halftime show.

"We were really ripped off. We were punk'd by Janet Jackson,"
Freston said, referring to MTV's reality show that makes
celebrities the butt of practical jokes.

The controversy erupted Sunday when Timberlake snatched off part
of Jackson's bustier on stage, revealing a breast clad only in a
sun-shaped "nipple shield" in front of some 89 million viewers.

"This was done completely without our knowledge," said Chris
Ender, entertainment spokesman for CBS, which was deluged with
angry calls. "It wasn't rehearsed. It wasn't discussed. It wasn't
even hinted at. ... This is something we would have never approved.
We are angry and embarrassed."

Jackson's spokeswoman, Jennifer Holiner, said a red lace garment
was supposed to remain when Timberlake tore off the outer covering.

Jackson issued another apology in a videotape released to the
media Tuesday. The pop star had apologized Monday night in a written
statement.

"I am really sorry if I offended anyone. That was truly not my
intention," she said. "MTV, CBS, the NFL had no knowledge of this
whatsoever, and unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the
end."

The NFL said it was "extremely disappointed." Several members
of Congress, the Parents Television Council and the Traditional
Values Coalition expressed outrage.

Even halftime producer and CBS corporate Viacom cousin MTV -- the
network that broadcast Madonna kissing Britney Spears at last
August's MTV Awards -- was contrite.

"Unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional," said MTV.

Although Timberlake issued a statement shortly after the show
apologizing and blaming the debacle on a "wardrobe malfunction,"
he didn't seem too sorry in comments to the syndicated show
"Access Hollywood."

"Hey, man, we love giving you all something to talk about," he
said, laughing.

Jackson's official Web site was bombarded with angry postings.

Said the FCC's Powell on NBC's "Today": "I'm glad everybody
is sorry. I'm sorry, too; it was a sorry incident. But if the
standard were that you could do whatever you wanted to and if you
apologized the next day that ends all further inquiry, we'd have a
really poor enforcement program."

Holiner said she was not sure whether Jackson's medieval-looking
nipple decoration was meant to be seen, but added that the singer
does wear such jewelry.

But the display still raised questions such as: If it was an
accident, why did a choreographer promise "shocking moments" in
an interview with the Web site MTV.com prior to the show?

And how could it have been a coincidence when it was timed to
the words of Timberlake's song "Rock Your Body" -- "I'm gonna
have you naked by the end of this song"?

MTV Networks Group President Judy McGrath says the shocker was
supposed to be Timberlake's appearance -- and not what he did
afterward. McGrath was sitting in the audience and didn't see the
flash, but said the pair "looked upset" afterward.

While she praised Jackson and Timberlake as artists, she said:
"I don't appreciate someone who doesn't communicate what their
plans are. I think it was a misguided move on their parts."

According to the FCC, non-cable TV channels cannot air
"obscene" material at any time and cannot air "indecent"
material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The FCC defines obscene as
describing sexual conduct "in a patently offensive way" and
lacking "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific
value." Indecent material is not as offensive but still contains
references to sex or excretions.