Court Denies C-SPAN Bid to Televise Indecency Argument

There is no chance of any cable viewers being offended if CBS uses visual aids in its defense of Janet Jackson’s breast shot.

The Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will not allow C-SPAN to televise the oral arguments in CBS’ challenge of the Federal Communications Commission’s indecency finding against the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl reveal back in 2004.

The cable public-affairs network had covered oral argument in the challenge to the FCC’s profanity finding against Fox in the Second Circuit, and it took a shot at trying to do the same for the Jackson trial, submitting an official request, which was officially denied. “We took a shot in the dark and sent them a letter,” said Terry Murphy, vice president of programming, for C-SPAN, “and they said no.”

While the Second Circuit has opened its court to TV cameras, the Third has not and won’t start with the Jackson case, which is being argued on the afternoon of Sept. 11.

C-SPAN will get access to audio from the arguments, however, and it has been working with the court to try to get it as quickly as possible.

Unlike the Supreme Court, which releases the audio “right away,” the Third Circuit is not as expedient, but Murphy said the court said it will try to release it to the press by the end of the day. If so, C-SPAN will air it live on C-SPAN-2 that night, as well as stream it online and carry it on C-SPAN Radio.

Why not on the mothership, C-SPAN? Murphy said that will likely be devoted to the report from Gen. David Petraeus on the war in Iraq, scheduled to be released the same day.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.