The network made a late attempt to blur it out, but the middle finger of Super Bowl halftime performer M.I.A. appeared crystal clear before some 110 million viewers last night and NBC and its affiliates could pay dearly. The offending finger sent the NFL and NBC scrambling to apologize for the act, which apparently was not rehearsed. While $325,000 is the maximum amount NBC and its affiliates could be fined, Feder, a partner at law firm Jennifer & Block, said a penalty of that scale is “less likely,” due to recent moves by the Supreme Court.
“Each station that broadcast the material could be fined up to $325,000,” says Samuel Feder, former general counsel to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC fine for fleeting expletives used to be $275,000 but Congress dramatically increased the amount following Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” eight years ago. The Federal Communication Commission fined CBS $550,000 for airing Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in 2004, though a court later overturned the fine, ruling the FCC “acted arbitrarily” in enforcing indecency policies.
In the aftermath of the second-long flash of the middle finger, NBC has apologized to viewers “for the inappropriate gesture that aired during halftime. It was a spontaneous gesture that our delay system caught late.” And the NFL is also talking, pointing the finger at the network, saying: “There was a failure in NBC’s delay system. The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans.”
Observers say the NFL could seek damages from M.I.A. for breach of contract, but few expect it to go that far; a legal battle would bring negative publicity and a mountain of bills.
I personally believe a fine should be instated, but not towards the network but the actual singer. Perhaps if the super bowl was not the most viewed television show during the year she might have gotten away with it. Even though the network did have censors ready for something like this, they did not work properly or on time. Which leads to another question; will any super bowl half time be safe from lewd behavior or will this now be the foreground for any musician/artist hoping to make a statement? It seems that unless the super bowl halftime shows is filled with “harmless yet non-entertaining” artists then there is no indefinite way of preventing such things from happening.