Credit: Maury Tannen/EPA/Landov

The Parents Television Council is tackling Sunday’s Super Bowl controversy. British singer M.I.A. flipped off viewers during Madonna’s halftime show, a gesture that instantly drew comparisons to Janet Jackson’s live “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004. The PTC says the NFL promised the organization a clean show despite casting performers with provocative reputations.

“NBC fumbled and the NFL lied because a performer known as M.I.A. felt it necessary to flip off millions of families,” wrote PTC president Tim Winter. “It is unfortunate that a spectacular sporting event was overshadowed once again by broadcasting the selfish acts of a desperate performer. Last week the NFL formally told the PTC – and the American public – that the Super Bowl halftime show would be ‘appropriate.’ Most families would agree that the middle finger aimed directly at them is not appropriate, especially during the most-watched television event of the year.”

According to an NBC spokesperson, the monitoring system tried to blur M.I.A’s gesture, but was too late by a fraction of a second (photo and video here). The NFL, however, hired the talent and produced the show.

“The mechanism NBC had in place to catch this type of material completely failed, and the network cannot say it was caught off guard,” Winter continued. “It has been eight years since the Janet Jackson striptease, and both NBC and the NFL knew full well what might happen. They chose a lineup full of performers who have based their careers on shock, profanity, and titillation. Instead of preventing indecent material, they enabled it. M.I.A. used a middle finger shamelessly to bring controversial attention to herself, while effectively telling an audience filled with children, ‘eff-you.'”

Both NBC and the NFL have issued statements of apology to viewers. “The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing, and we apologize to our fans,” wrote the NFL. “Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture and we apologize to our viewers,” wrote NBC. But the PTC says it’s not enough.

“A simple apology rings hollow after yet another slap in the face to families, especially when NBC has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that it should be allowed to air all manner of indecent material at any time of day, even when children are watching,” Winter said. “Either the NFL and NBC will take immediate steps to hold those accountable for this offensive material in front of a hundred million Americans, or they will feebly sit back and do nothing. The nation — and the PTC — is watching.”

Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl exposure was a landmark event for the PTC, which was at the forefront of citizen-based criticism of the telecast.

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