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Utah lawyer sues Viacom over Super Bowl halftime show

By The Associated Press
05.25.04

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawyer has sued CBS owner Viacom in small-claims court for false advertising, claiming that he was led to believe this year’s Super Bowl halftime show would be a family-oriented patriotic celebration.

Instead, Eric Stephenson of Farmington claims, he was exposed to explicit song lyrics, Janet Jackson's bare breast, and what he calls Kid Rock's desecration of the American flag by wearing it as a poncho.

“This is a simple case of bait and switch,” Stephenson told Judge Jerald Jensen in court May 21. “They had total control ... to tell me what was going to happen, and they had total control to hide it from me.”

Stephenson is suing Viacom for $5,000. The father of three children ages 2, 4 and 6, Stephenson said pregame advertising and information in television guides led him to believe he would see marching bands, balloons and a patriotic celebration during the Feb. 1 program.

At the end of a duet with Jackson, singer Justin Timberlake ripped off a panel of her clothing that exposed her breast briefly before cameras cut away. Jackson has claimed the exposure was accidental.

Salt Lake City attorney Jeff Hunt, who is representing Viacom, says Stephenson is complaining in the wrong venue. He should instead voice his concerns to the Federal Communications Commission, which is already investigating the halftime show, Hunt said.

Stephenson also could file a claim in federal court, Hunt said. “It’s clear he felt this content was offensive, but it’s clear it’s content that has First Amendment protection,” Hunt said. “You may not like it, you may be offended by it, but it’s stretching it to say it’s false advertising.”

Jensen said he will issue his decision in the case no later than May 27.


Update
Judge tosses claim Super Bowl show was falsely advertised
Utah attorney had sued Viacom, arguing he was led to believe halftime performance would be family-friendly. 05.30.04

Related

FCC launches probe into Super Bowl halftime show

Chief regulator calls performance in which Janet Jackson's breast was exposed 'a classless, crass and deplorable stunt,' says investigation will be 'thorough and swift.' 02.02.04

Woman drops lawsuit over Super Bowl halftime show
Meanwhile in Texas, Harris County commissioner proposes 'morality clause' for performances at county-owned facilities. 02.11.04

FCC head opposes strict sanctions for indecency violators
'I don't think you should reduce something as facile and vague as indecency to clear cause-and-effect consequences,' Michael Powell tells broadcasters conference. 04.21.04

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