Court Shoots Down FCC on Indecency

For now, f-bombs from rock artists or actors on live TV are safe. A U.S. Appeals Court today shot down the Federal Communications Commission’s indecency enforcement policies, ruling that the regulations, adopted in 2004, violated the First Amendment.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Fox Television Stations v. FCC was a big win for Fox, CBS and ABC, which had petitioned the court, arguing that the guidelines were vague and did not give adequate guidance regarding fleeting expletives.

“The FCC’s policy violates the First Amendment because it is unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here,” the court wrote.

Broadcasters, along with petitioners such as The Media Access Project, expect to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

“Media Access Project entered this case on behalf of writers, producers, directors and musicians because the FCC’s indecency rules are irredeemably vague and interfere with the creative process. Today’s decision vindicates that argument. The next stop is the Supreme Court, and we’re confident that the Justices will affirm this decision,” said Andrew Jay Schwartzman, svp and policy director for MAP.