Appeals Court Strikes Down FCC 'Fleeting Expletives' Indecency Policy
July 13, 2010 at 11:51 AM (PT)
The FCC's "fleeting expletives" indecency rules were thrown out by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals TUESDAY. The ruling, responding to the Commission's determination that the expletives, heard in two editions of the BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS on FOX television, were actionably indecent was "unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here." The Court also indicated that the entire Commission indecency policy was invalid.
"We agree with the networks that the indecency policy is impermissibly vague," the court, in a decision written by Judge ROSEMARY POOLER, said. "It results in a standard that even the FCC cannot articulate or apply consistently."
FOX issued a statement saying the network is "extremely pleased with the decision handed down today by the Second Circuit. We have always felt that the government's position on fleeting expletives was unconstitutional. While we will continue to strive to eliminate expletives from live broadcasts, the inherent challenges broadcasters face with live television, coupled with the human element required for monitoring, must allow for the unfortunate isolated instances where inappropriate language slips through."
The case is now likely headed back to the Supreme Court on appeal by the Commission.
Commenting on the court ruling, NAB EVP/Communications DENNIS WHARTON issued the following statement:
"NAB supports TODAY’s appellate court decision. As broadcasters, we will continue to offer programming that is reflective of the diverse communities we serve. We believe that responsible decision making by network and local station executives, coupled with program blocking technologies like the V-chip, is far preferable to government regulation of program content."