NEW YORK As most of Washington focused on the elections, the Supreme Court on Tuesday began oral arguments in the closely followed case centering on indecency and swearing on TV.
It was unclear where the majority of justices was leaning as the court began reviewing the case, Federal Communications Commission vs. Fox, to decide whether the agency can subject broadcasters to fines when they air so-called “fleeting expletives” on live TV broadcasts or even vulgar language on entertainment programming.
While observers expected to hear an occasional swear word as FCC and Fox attorneys discussed the issue with the justices, the use of such euphemisms as “the f-word” and “s-word” helped everyone avoid that, reports said.
Chief Justice John Roberts, the only court member with young children, argued that the FCC’s approach was reasonable as either one of those two words is “associated with sexual or excretory activity.”
Justice John Paul Stevens, on the other hand, argued that swear words are also used without such connotations.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also seemed sympathetic to the networks, while Antonin Scalia appeared supportive of the FCC.
Three justices said little, making predictions about their leanings more difficult.
Fox lawyer Carter Phillips countered that a ruling in favor of the agency would restrict free speech.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.