Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy

2004 controversy over indecent exposure on television

The 38th Super Bowl was shown on television as it was happening on February 1, 2004 on CBS. The halftime show of the Super Bowl got controversy when Janet Jackson's breast was revealed by Justin Timberlake to everyone watching the show. This caused a big debate on broadcasting things that people might see as offensive.

MTV was the producer of the halftime show.[1] 143.6 million people watched the halftime show when it first happened.[2] The incident with Jackson and Timberlake made CBS and MTV remove Jackson's songs from its radio and television channels.[3] The Federal Communications Commission gave CBS a fine of US$27,500 for the incident. The fine was made bigger for US$325,000 and then even bigger, for US$550,000.[4] The Third Circuit Court of Appeals removed the fine in 2011.[5] The FCC tried to put another fine on CBS in 2012, but it was rejected.[6]

The incident made Janet Jackson the most searched words ever on the Internet.[7] It also became the most watched event on TiVo[8] and made 35,000 people become new subscribers to TiVo.[9] The term "wardrobe malfunction" (meaning an error related to clothing) was made because of the incident.[10] It was later added to Webster's Dictionary.[11]


  1. "The NFL and CBS Look to MTV to Produce the AOL Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show". September 12, 2003. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  2. Waters, Michael (February 1, 2018). "Super Bowl Flashback: The Forgotten Details of Janet Jackson's 'Nipplegate'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 1, 2019.
  3. Ali, Yashar (September 7, 2018). "Exclusive: Les Moonves Was Obsessed With Ruining Janet Jackson's Career, Sources Say". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  4. Federal Communications Commission (September 22, 2004). "FCC proposes statutory maximum fine of $550,000 against Viacom-owned CBS affiliates for apparent violation of indecency rules during broadcast of Super Bowl halftime show". Press release. 
  5. Timothy B. Lee (November 2, 2011). "Court rules Janet Jackson nipplegate fine was unfair to CBS". Ars Technica. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  6. Cherner Reid (June 29, 2012). "Supreme Court won't hear Janet Jackson Super Bowl case". USA Today. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  7. "Janet's breast makes net history". BBC News. February 5, 2004. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  8. "The Super Bowl: The most DVR'd, and DVR-proof, broadcast on TV". Yahoo! News. February 3, 2012. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  9. Monte Burke (March 1, 2004), "The Ripple Effect", Forbes, 173 (4), p. 46, ISSN 0015-6914
  10. Nekesa Mumbi Moody (February 3, 2004). "Janet Jackson Apologizes for Bared Breast". Associated Press. Archived from the original on February 3, 2004. Also published by as "Apologetic Jackson says 'costume reveal' went awry".
  11. "'Credit crunch', 'wardrobe malfunction' squeeze into dictionary". Agence France-Presse. August 14, 2008. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved December 1, 2020.