When can we stop talking about Jackson?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

What did they know and when did they know it? Those questions have been applied this week not to questions about intelligence before the war on Iraq but to who is responsible for Janet Jackson’s revealing Super Bowl halftime performance.

The latest: Jackson has now issued a video-taped apology; the NFL has banned anyone who doesn’t perform hula tunes from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii; and some guy who lives in New Orleans and happened to be at rehearsals has weighed in on his opinion.

Interestingly, the same NFL that created the scantily-clad Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and allows companies to pay top-dollar for crass commercials during the Super Bowl claimed the incident was far beyond its own standards of decency.

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And everyone is passing the buck of blame &045;&045; CBS and MTV have disavowed prior knowledge of the incident, while singer Justin Timberlake claimed it was a &uot;wardrobe malfunction.&uot;

Yes, we need to draw lines of decency in broadcast programming.

But we already have them. Federal regulations ban obscene material and restrict &uot;indecent&uot; broadcasts to between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a restriction in place to protect young children, many of whom were watching the Super Bowl broadcast and halftime show well before 10 p.m.

The FCC should conduct its investigation and levy fines where they are appropriate and warranted.

But we find it hard to believe that this incident will have much impact beyond watercooler fodder and much closer attention to program content, at least for a while.

Broadcasters &045;&045; and for that matter, musicians &045;&045; have always pushed the lines of decency, whether it was Elvis Presley’s hip twists or Kid Rock’s general vulgarity.

This doesn’t mean the mom and dad on &uot;Everybody Loves Raymond&uot; are going to be showing us exactly what happens behind the bedroom door anytime soon, or ever.

It was a big mistake &045;&045; whether intentional or not.

But it’s not the end of Western civilization &045;&045; at least not yet.