High court to reexamine FCC indecency rules

Editor’s note: With this post by Ashley Smolic, the Biedermanblog’s new Editorial Board begins its term. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled this week to dive into answering whether the Federal Communications Commission has overstepped broadcasters’ rights to free speech and due process in its efforts to wipe the airwaves of what agency regulators have termed offensive, including use on air of “fleeting” profanities by celebrities like Cher (shown at right in 2002 Kevin Winter photo). In FCC v Fox Television Studios, the Court will examine its prior rulings regarding the question that has plagued broadcasters and the FCC alike for years, with strict parameters and requirements set for certain types of acceptable broadcast language and images.  In the landmark case of FCC v Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978), a 1978 Supreme Court ruling involving George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words,” the court established that the FCC can regulate indecency on the airwaves between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., reasoning that, during those times, children are likely to be part of the television audience. For many broadcasters today, the issue is consistency. According to the Wall Street Journal, Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters asserts: “It’s clarity that we’re looking for more than anything else. If you tell us what the rules are, we’ll follow the rules.” In its brief, however, Fox and other networks argue that the FCC’s stringent patrol of...

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