FCC to Appeal ‘Fleeting Expletive’ Court Decision
(Harrisburg) — On July 13 a three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) indecency policies violate the First Amendment and are “unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here.” The American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA of PA), a statewide pro-decency organization, applauds today’s FCC decision to appeal the decision of the three-judge panel.
The court decision would have allowed the FCC to try to write a new, very specific indecency policy that does pass constitutional muster. They indicated such a policy would leave little to the discretion of government regulators.
“The FCC has made the right decision to challenge last month’s court ruling rather than write a new indecency policy. There is nothing vague about federal indecency laws that have been on the books for decades and have always been thought to prohibit the F-word on prime time TV,” noted Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of PA.
The 2004 change being challenged came after the 2003 Golden Globe Awards, aired by NBC, when U2 singer Bono said on live TV that winning an award was “really, really f——ing brilliant.” The new FCC regulations left station owners liable for fines of up to $325,000 for airing unscripted, spontaneous or “fleeting” expletives. Yet delaying technology is available that can prohibit the situations that Fox News, NBC and other broadcasters have found themselves in.
“The FCC restrictions only apply from 6:00 a.m. till 10:00 p.m. when children are more likely to be in the audience. Trying to hide behind the First Amendment in saying it’s okay to air obscenities at all hours is ludicrous. To take away the FCC’s ability to levy large fines, takes away any ‘teeth’ the agency may have in protecting America’s airwaves,” further noted Gramley.
The FCC’s appeal could set the stage for a challenge in the Supreme Court. When the court reviewed the case in 2009, several justices raised questions about how the media landscape had changed since 1978, when the court upheld an FCC sanction against a New York radio station for playing comedian George Carlin’s monologue on “Filthy Words.” Three decades later a majority of Americans now watch television via cable, satellite TV and the Internet, but those mediums don’t currently fall under the FCC’s indecency jurisdiction.
# # #