The court found that the FCC deviated from its nearly 30-year practice of fining indecent broadcast programming only when it was so ''pervasive as to amount to 'shock treatment' for the audience.''
''Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing,'' the court said. ''But it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure.''
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the decision, noting that hundreds of thousands of people had complained about the incident.
"I continue to believe that this incident was inappropriate, and this only highlights the importance of the Supreme Court's consideration of our indecency rules this fall," Martin said.
While I certainly can't condone the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake fiasco, this was an overreaction if ever one existed and fining television stations outlandish amounts for clearly unforeseeable events is a dangerous precedent and one that could have had a chilling effect on everything from sporting events to live coverage of the news.