Court tosses out FCC indecency rulings

[New York Times]

If President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney can blurt out vulgar language, then the government cannot punish broadcast television stations for broadcasting the same words in similarly fleeting contexts.

That, in essence, was the decision Monday when a federal appeals court struck down the government policy that allows stations and networks to be fined if they broadcast shows containing obscenities.

Although the case was primarily concerned with what is known as "fleeting expletives," or blurted obscenities, on television, network executives and top officials at the FCC said the opinion could gut the ability of the commission to regulate any speech on TV or radio.

Kevin J. Martin, the chairman of the FCC, said the agency was considering whether to seek an appeal before all the judges of the appeals court or take the matter directly to the Supreme Court.

The decision, by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, was a sharp rebuke for the FCC.

Under Bush, the FCC has expanded its indecency rules, taking a much harder line on obscenities uttered on broadcast television and radio. While the court sent the case back to the commission to rewrite its indecency policy, it said that it was "doubtful" the agency would be able to "adequately respond to the constitutional and statutory challenges raised by the networks."

article originally published at

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey