In a 78-page answer to the charges, CBS's corporate owner tried to convince the Federal Communications Commission (search) to change the fine, the largest ever imposed against a television broadcaster.
Viacom said the fine made no sense because nobody at Viacom or CBS, which broadcast the Super Bowl, knew ahead of time that singer Justin Timberlake would yank off part of Jackson's costume, revealing Jackson's right breast for less than a second.
The FCC disregarded Viacom's own investigation into the incident, imposing the fine despite the fact the company did not know what would happen, Viacom said.
The FCC unanimously decided to fine each of the 20 CBS-owned television stations $27,500, the maximum penalty for indecency. The agency chose not to fine more than 200 CBS affiliate stations that aired the show but aren't owned by Viacom.
Viacom argued that CBS's decision to impose a five-second audio delay on the performance was evidence that the company had taken some care to protect against indecency. There was no delay for the video portion of the program.
"Nothing about the performance, as planned and scripted, comes close to anything the FCC has ever sanctioned as indecent," Viacom said in its answer to the FCC. The song "Rock Your Body" had been performed live many times without any hint of nudity, the legal papers said.
Viacom also argued there was little to support the conclusion that the brief flash of Jackson's breast was indecent.
The company also argued the FCC's ruling was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech and that it was an unwarranted expansion of the agency's powers.
The FCC has stepped up enforcement in recent years as complaints mounted about a coarsening of public airwaves. Critics, including radio host Howard Stern, claim the FCC is seeking to stifle free speech.
Timberlake initially blamed a "wardrobe malfunction" after a piece of Jackson's black leather top was torn off. CBS apologized to viewers, but the incident generated more than a half million complaints to the FCC.