Court Throws Out FCC Fox Indecency Ruling
June 4, 2007 at 4:57 PM (PT)
A federal appeals court has thrown out the FCC's ruling that FOX's broadcasts of the 2002 and 2003 BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS violated indecency regulations.
The telecasts involved spontaneous profanity by CHER and NICOLE RICHIE, and a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the FCC's rules regarding profanity is arbitrary and capricious, remanding the case back to the FCC. The majority said that the FCC policy revision made major changes to previous policy without articulating "a reasoned basis" for the change.
If we canâ??t restrict the use of [these] words during prime time, Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want.
NAB Exec. VP DENNIS WHARTON said, "This is a timely opinion as public policymakers weigh the merits of further program content restrictions. NAB has long believed that responsible industry self-regulation is preferable to government regulation in areas of programming content."
FCC Chairman KEVIN MARTIN, on the other hand, was upset enough with the ruling to release a statement including the very words he had ruled were indecent when uttered by others on TV, saying, "I completely disagree with the Court’s ruling and am disappointed for American families. I find it hard to believe that the NEW YORK court would tell American families that 'shit' and 'fuck' are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience. The court even says the Commission is 'divorced from reality.' It is the NEW YORK court, not the Commission, that is divorced from reality in concluding that the word 'fuck' does not invoke a sexual connotation.
"These words were used in prime time, when children were watching. Ironically, the court implies that the existence of blocking technologies is one reason the FCC shouldn’t be so concerned. But even a vigilant parent using current blocking technologies such as the V-Chip couldn’t have avoided this language, because they rely on the program’s rating, and in this case the programs were rated appropriate for family viewing.
"If ever there was an appropriate time for Commission action, this was it. If we can’t restrict the use of the words 'fuck' and 'shit' during prime time, HOLLYWOOD will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want."
Commissioner MICHAEL COPPS was also upset with the ruling, calling it "disappointing to me and to millions of parents and concerned citizens across the land. But it doesn't change the FCC's legal obligation to enforce the indecency statute. So any broadcaster who sees this decision as a green light to send more gratuitous sex and violence into our homes would be making a huge mistake. The FCC has a duty to find a way to breathe life into the laws that protect our kids. That may entail an appeal of this decision. Certainly it includes strong enforcement action of the many indecency complaints before us that are untouched by today's decision. Enforcing the laws against indecency, profanity and obscenity must remain a Commission priority -- AMERICA's families and children expect and deserve no less."