Television

Jackson Super Bowl controversy smacks of hypocrisy

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MUMBAI: The latest controversy to hit American television revolves around pop icon Janet Jackson partially flashing her bosom during the half time special at the Super Bowl on 1 February.



Media watchdog - the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - ordered an immediate investigation while both MTV and CBS where the event aired, tendered their apologies.



FCC chairman Michael Powell had the following stinging remarks to make about the event. "I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl. 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. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."



All this brouhaha however strikes us as being rather strange and hypocritical coming as it does from a country where shocking stunts on TV and the media are nothing new. At the MTV awards show, Britney Spears and Madonna shared a luscious kiss which was basically a publicity stunt and got the event the desired attention.



In this context, CBS couldn't have been so naive as to not expect something controversial to occur. Its statement read, "We attended all rehearsals throughout the week and there was no indication that any such thing would happen. The moment did not conform to CBS broadcast standards and we would like to apologise to anyone who was offended."



This is also not the first time that Jackson has flaunted her sexuality to gain an audience. In the past years, she has appeared on covers of magazines like Rolling Stone in a suggestive manner. Whatever be the outcome of the FCC inquiry, CBS couldn't have been unhappy with the ratings of the event. It issued a release stating that 143.6 Million Viewers watched all or a part of Super Bowl XXXVIII making it the most watched Super Bowl ever.



Coming back to the controversy, it is an open secret that sexism is very much part of the National Football League's subtext thanks to the scantily dressed cheerleaders flashing their thighs to the audience, many of whom are minors. Some super bowl ads too have been provocative. However the NFL has generally been careful to keep provocation out of the limelight during the telecast so that even children can soak in the event.



If the FCC is seriously worried about the intrusion of tasteless and inappropriate behaviour then why isn't it doing anything about some of the reality shows on American television? In Jackson's defense it can be said that the stunt did not last too long. On reality shows be it Survivor on CBS or Temptation Island on Fox, shocking things happen quite often without anyone raising a hue and cry. FCC's inaction is surprising considering that it wants broadcasters to exert "a greater degree of social responsibility".



Of course this is not the first time Viacom has gotten into trouble with the FCC nor will it be the last. Its radio station Infinity has been served notices in the past for violation of indecency rules. At times, the content has explored the dark corners of the human mind like paedophilia.



It now remains to be seen whether the FCC is successful in implementing a stricter code of conduct in a country whose obsession with obscene celebrity behaviour and fascination with controversy circulating in media circles knows no bounds.

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