Main | Thursday, June 21, 2012

SCOTUS Slaps Down TV Cursing Law

The Supreme Court today unanimously ruled in favor of broadcasters who say they are unfairly punished for "isolated moments" of obscenity and profanity that slip onto the airwaves.
In an 8-0 vote, justices concluded the Federal Communications Commission cannot enforce its current policies against "fleeting" expletives and nudity on over-the-air programs, both live and scripted. The agency had levied hefty fines on all four major broadcasters beginning nearly a decade ago. The court's ruling establishes important First Amendment guidelines over explicit content on the airwaves. "The commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. The Justice Department had filed an appeal, and helpfully provided the justices with a DVD of a 2003 episode of the now-canceled "NYPD Blue" on ABC in which a naked woman was shown. The content of that program is central to the current legal dispute. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are all parties in the case.
The FCC began more aggressively fining networks in 2003 after U2's Bono accepted an award on live television by saying, "This is really, really fucking brilliant." That infraction standard became known as the "Golden Globes Rule."

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