From Huffington Post:

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down a government policy that can lead to broadcasters being fined for allowing even a single curse word on live television, saying it is unconstitutionally vague and threatens speech “at the heart of the First Amendment.”

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan threw out the 2004 Federal Communications Commission policy, which said that profanity referring to sex or excrement is always indecent.

“By prohibiting all `patently offensive’ references to sex, sexual organs and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what `patently offensive’ means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive,” the court wrote.

“To place any discussion of these vast topics at the broadcaster’s peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship of valuable material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment,” it added.

The court said the FCC might be able to craft a policy that does not violate the First Amendment.

It cited several examples of chilled speech, including a Vermont station’s refusal to air a political debate because one local politician previously had used expletives on the air and a Moosic, Pa., station’s decision to no longer provide live coverage of news events unless they affect matters of public safety or convenience.

“This chill reaches speech at the heart of the First Amendment,” the appeals court said.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said: “We’re reviewing the court’s decision in light of our commitment to protect children, empower parents, and uphold the First Amendment.”

Carter Phillips, a Washington lawyer who argued the case for Fox Television Stations Inc., called the decision satisfying. He said the court had “sent the FCC back to square one to start over” by not only tossing the FCC’s fleeting expletive policy but also a broader indecency policy as unconstitutionally vague

I am not so sure this is a good thing. Talk is trashy enough on TV as it is. On the other hand, what difference does it make if the show is network or cable. It seems the burden of decency is all on network TV and radio and not on the satellite and cable stations. Do our contributors think this is a good plan or not?

9 Thoughts to “FCC Swear Word Ban Policy Ditched By Federal Court”

  1. marinm

    I agree with this ruling.

  2. I hope all the little future marins learn the F word off TV by the age of 2. 🙄

    Perhaps the major airwaves networks can come up with their own agreement on acceptable language.

  3. marinm

    Ouch. That’s a little low, eh?

    I understand where your coming from but if we’re to have a First Amendment in more than word only we have to support it even when the answer may not be what we want it to be.

    In this case, content providers (networks, stations, or affiliates) were afraid to put things on air because they were unscripted and a remote possibility of a swear word being uttered existed.

    Should networks refuse to broadcast the Golden Globes because Bono dropped the F bomb?

    On all live events should we continue to have to deal with tape-delayed broadcasts (again on what should be a ‘live’ feed)?

    1. I don’t know. Was the network fined over Bono’s potty tongue?

      The FCC rules are arbitrary. They also only apply to airwaves, don’t they?

      That’s the reason that the airwave networks need to establish some sort of standard and stick to it. Language has gone to the dogs. They need to be self-regulating. Too many children have unsupervised use of TV.

  4. marinm

    I think there is some confusion. We’re talking about unscripted broadcasts not scripted shows. There is a difference between dropping the F word on Glee and for a live news broadcast to have some guy jump in the camera with middle fingers blazing yelling out F*, F*, F*, F*, F*, F* and F*…

    Why should the network be responsible for a guy they had no control over saying F* in a public place within view of a television camera?

    Unsupervised use of a TV is the fault of a parent not NBC.

    This is really no different than if I was walking on Center Street in Manassas and some guy stubbed his toe and yelled out the S word.

  5. I suppose if it is unscripted and the station has no prior knowledge of language considered offensive, then I agree .

  6. marinm

    Yup, that’s pretty much what the Court said in it’s ruling. Also, the Court even pointed out that the FCC could draft a constitutional policy but that the current one just sucked ***.


    Words are a great thing!!!

  7. I said I wasn”t going to write any more, but I just gotta say, “Holy shit Batman!”

  8. I am glad you returned, George. And yup, it’s legal now.

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