After Super Bowl, CBS putting in tape delay for Grammy telecast

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

NEW YORK -- Following Janet Jackson's surprise breast-baring on the Super Bowl halftime show, CBS said Tuesday it would institute a video delay system to avoid any recurrence at Sunday's Grammy Awards.

CBS technicians were scrambling to invent the software -- something more than five-second audio delay the network has used to bleep out swear words.

Meanwhile, CBS may ask that Jackson and Justin Timberlake be banned from the Grammys if the network concludes the musicians intended to give Jackson the extra exposure on Sunday, said a network executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sometimes called the "bra-ha-ha," the one-second Super Bowl flashing continued to cause reverberations Tuesday.

MTV boss Tom Freston, whose network produced the halftime show, bitterly complained about being "punk'd" by Jackson, referring to an MTV show, and Federal Communications Commission chief Michael Powell said the entire show angered him.

Jackson's spokeswoman, Jennifer Holiner, said a red lace garment was supposed to remain when Timberlake tore off the outer covering. But widespread questions remained about the intent.

Timberlake, who is nominated for five Grammy Awards, is scheduled to perform on Sunday's telecast. Jackson is supposed to present an award.

Whether they appear or not, CBS censors will have their fingers on a new delay system.

"Unfortunately, we cannot count on those who appear on our air to live up to our standards," said Martin Franks, CBS executive vice president.

Technicians were trying to come up with something more viewer-friendly than just fading to a blank screen if they want something off the air, he said.

Even with Christina Aguilera -- who kissed Madonna onstage at the MTV Video Music Awards last summer -- also scheduled to perform, Grammy producers haven't changed any plans because of the Super flashing, said Ron Roecker, spokesman for the Recording Academy.

"They're musicians," he said. "They're passionate about what they're doing and we can't be 100 percent in control of the action. We don't anticipate there being issues."

CBS faces an FCC investigation into whether the Super Bowl show violated decency laws, with potential fines of up to $27,500. If applied to each CBS station, the fine could reach into the millions.

Powell said Tuesday that the FCC had begun a formal investigation, and a letter was sent to CBS. "It's well under way," he said.

All five commissioners expressed concern about the Super Bowl broadcast, but Powell declined to speculate on what the FCC would do once the investigation was finished. "I'm not going to try to prejudge the outcome," he said.

Powell said he wasn't happy with the halftime show in general, which featured performances by Nelly and Kid Rock before the bump-and-grind duet with Jackson and Timberlake. Nelly gestured toward his crotch, while Kid Rock draped himself in an American flag-designed poncho.

"I think everybody's focusing on the finale, but a lot of what we've heard in terms of complaints and the breadth of the investigation is a little broader than just that incident," Powell said on ABC's "Good Morning America. "I personally was offended by the entire production."

Freston, chairman of MTV Networks, said he welcomed the FCC's investigation, which he said will prove that the show's producers and broadcasters had no prior knowledge of the stunt.

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