(AP) High court throws out FCC indecency policy
The Supreme Court has thrown out fines and sanctions against broadcasters who violated the Federal Communications Commission policy regulating curse words and nudity on broadcast television.
The justices declined on Thursday to issue a broad ruling on the constitutionality of the FCC indecency policy. Instead, the court concluded only that broadcasters could not have known in advance that obscenities uttered during awards show programs and a brief display of nudity on an episode of ABC’s NYPD Blue could give rise to sanctions.
The justices said the FCC is free to revise its indecency policy.
CNN has more:
Broadcast television networks won an important free speech fight Thursday when the Supreme Court said government regulators imposed unfair punishment for isolated profanity and sexual content during evening “prime time” hours.
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.