| Janet Jackson
New York, Feb. 4 (Reuters): Singer Janet Jackson masterminded the Super Bowl halftime stunt that ripped her bustier and prompted a federal probe into television indecency, the head of MTV said yesterday.
“Janet Jackson engineered it,” MTV chief executive Tom Freston said in an interview.
The blame on Jackson came on the second day of fallout after pop idol Justin Timberlake tore off half of Jackson’s black leather bustier while the pair were singing a duet at the conclusion of Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.
Freston, whose company produced the halftime show for CBS, said Timberlake was informed of the stunt just moments before he took the stage with Jackson. MTV and CBS are both owned by Viacom.
The Super Bowl is the highest-rated US television event, watched by almost 90 million people. The stunt, which Timberlake said was due to a “wardrobe malfunction,” sparked widespread viewer complaints.
Federal Communications Commission regulators launched an investigation amid calls for the government to take a tougher stance on regulating indecency on television.
“There’s now going to be an FCC investigation... ,” Freston said.
Jackson took the blame but said on Monday her stunt went further than she intended: “The decision to have a costume reveal at the end of my half-time show performance was made after final rehearsals. MTV was completely unaware of it. It was not my intention that it go as far as it did.”
Freston said neither CBS nor the National Football League has rescinded or demanded a refund of MTV’s production fees. But sources said the incident could possibly cost CBS and the NFL millions of dollars.
They said Time Warner Inc. unit America Online may now seek a partial refund of the estimated $10 million it paid as a major Super Bowl advertiser and exclusive halftime show sponsor. The company said the controversy means it cannot now broadcast the halftime extravaganza on its web site for 25 million AOL members and visitors.
“In deference to our membership and the fans, AOL and AOL.com will not be presenting the show online as originally planned,” it said.
McDonald’s Corp, which uses Timberlake as a pitch man, said it found the incident was inappropriate but that it will stand by the singer. An NFL spokesperson said it is unlikely that MTV will be asked to produce future halftime shows.