FCC indecency ban struck down

By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission's indecency policy Tuesday, calling the agency's longstanding rules "unconstitutionally vague."

A three-judge panel on the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 32-page ruling that the FCC's indecency rules created "a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here."

FCC commissioner Michael Copps said in a statement that the court's decision was "anti-family." He said the FCC's policy was "constitutional and enforceable," but he called on the commission to "immediately to clarify and strengthen its indecency framework."

The appellate court's decision was a major milestone for television and radio broadcasters who have long complained the FCC's rules violated First Amendment rights.

Several years ago, the FCC had levied fines on scripted expletives but had typically been more lenient about accidental profanities uttered during live shows.

But in 2003, U2 singer Bono swore while accepting an award on NBC. The network didn't receive a fine, but the FCC warned that any profanities -- including unscripted ones -- could lead to fines in the future. In the following years, the FCC fined several networks for expletives uttered on live television.

In 2006, Fox Television, NBC Universal and several other broadcasters sued the FCC for what they said was a vague and unevenly enforced policy.

The case went to the Supreme Court, which said in April 2009 the FCC had enacted its policy correctly. But the higher court sent the case back to the Second Circuit Court to decide whether the policy was constitutional.

The FCC policy formed largely from a 1978 Supreme Court decision that allowed the commission to fine a radio station for airing late comedian George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" monologue.

"We have always felt that the government's position on fleeting expletives was unconstitutional," Fox Networks said in a statement, adding "the inherent challenges broadcasters face with live television ... must allow for the unfortunate isolated instances where inappropriate language slips through." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,928.20 -142.20 -0.79%
Nasdaq 4,939.33 -77.60 -1.55%
S&P 500 2,089.46 -25.03 -1.18%
Treasuries 2.18 0.04 1.92%
Data as of 10:23pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.35 -0.09 -0.55%
Microsoft Corp 47.60 -0.64 -1.33%
Apple Inc 125.80 -2.90 -2.25%
Ford Motor Co 15.53 -0.25 -1.58%
AT&T Inc 33.72 -0.81 -2.35%
Data as of 4:04pm ET
Sponsors

Sections

A new Kansas law approved Tuesday is too strict for Uber. It stop operating there immediately. More

Jobs at Disney, the NCAA and UPS, as well as warehouse, babysitting and journalism jobs are some of the most searched on Google in 2015. More

The London-based startup is on a quest to democratize access to technology and coding with its computer company. More

Lack of wage growth and career opportunities along with long hours are most likely to make someone say "Sayonara, boss," according to a new global survey of full-time employees. More