Feds Planning Super Bowl Porn Probe?

FCC "will follow normal investigative procedure" after fielding complaints about X-rated snippet aired during big game

By Josh Grossberg Feb 04, 2009 10:55 PMTags
Ben Roethlisberger, SteelersAP Photo/Chris O'Meara

This almost makes us nostalgic for the days of Nipplegate.

The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing a number of complaints from viewers how 30 seconds of porn from an adult video channel ended up being transmitted to homes in Tuscon, Ariz., during the Super Bowl.

FCC spokesman David Fiske tells E! News the government agency has received several complaints and will follow up according to protocol.

Per the agency's website, FCC staff reviews each complaint to determine whether it alleges information sufficient to suggest that a violation of the obscenity, profanity or indecency prohibition has occurred. If it appears that a violation may have occurred, the staff will commence an investigation, which may include sending a Letter of Inquiry to the broadcast station.

By law, the FCC's jurisdiction extends only to broadcast networks, not cable.

Comcast (the parent company of E! Entertainment) has already issued a mea culpa to those who were subjected to the inadvertent images from the porn network Club Jenna.

In a statement, the cable giant blamed the intrusion on a fiber-optics line operated by Cox Cable and that it was launching its own probe into what it called "an isolated malicious act." Comcast also promised a $10 credit to affected subscribes.

No word yet on a culprit.

Dan Isett, the director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, a conservative watchdog group, says that because the porn was aired by a cable provider, the FCC probably can't do anything about it. However, there are alternatives.

"This is a case of someone deliberately putting obscenity on a cable network, and because it aired over a cable station, the FCC doesn't have jurisdiction," said Isett. "They can only fine broadcasters for material like that.

"However, there are some that think this may be cause for an obscenity prosecution which is different from broadcast indecency which would require bringing in the Justice Department." 

Indeed, the office of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kans.) has issued a statement calling for a government probe.

Meanwhile, with all the attention on the porn, there haven't been any complaints lodged about GoDaddy.com's racy Danica Patrick spots or Bruce Springsteen's candid-camera halftime performance.

When asked, Isett said the Boss' crotch slide was "not on our radar."

CORRECTION (Feb. 5, 2009 at 6:35 p.m. PT): The FCC has not launched any official inquiry into the Super Bowl matter, as was previously stated.

(Originally published Feb. 4, 2009 at 12:05 p.m. PT)