View Full Forums : Next, Obama Should Do a Clean Sweep of the FCC

04-28-2009, 02:20 PM Court upholds TV profanity crackdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court upheld a government crackdown on profanity on television, a policy that subjects broadcasters to fines for airing a single expletive blurted out on a live show.

In its first ruling on broadcast indecency standards in more than 30 years, the high court handed a victory on Tuesday to the Federal Communications Commission, which adopted the crackdown against the one-time use of profanity on live television when children are likely to be watching.

The case stemmed from an FCC ruling in 2006 that found News Corp's Fox television network violated decency rules when singer Cher blurted out an expletive during the 2002 Billboard Music Awards broadcast and actress Nicole Richie used two expletives during the 2003 awards.

No fines were imposed, but Fox challenged the decision. A U.S. appeals court in New York struck down the new policy as "arbitrary and capricious" and sent the case back to the FCC for a more reasoned explanation of its policy.

The FCC, under the administration of President George W. Bush, had embarked on a crackdown of indecent content on broadcast TV and radio after pop star Janet Jackson briefly exposed her bare breast during the 2004 broadcast of the Super Bowl halftime show.

By a 5-4 vote and splitting along conservative-liberal lines, the justices upheld the FCC's new policy.

"The agency's reasons for expanding its enforcement activity, moreover, were entirely rational," Justice Antonin Scalia said in summarizing the court's majority ruling from the bench.


"Even when used as an expletive, the F-word's power to insult and offend derives from its sexual meaning," Scalia said.

Government lawyers in the case have said the policy covered so-called "fleeting expletives," such as the "F-word" and the "S-word" that denote "sexual or excretory activities," respectively.

Critics said the FCC has been inconsistent in enforcing its new policy. It allowed the television broadcast of the movie "Saving Private Ryan" even though it contained the same expletives.

Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented.

Stevens said it is ironic that the FCC patrols the airwaves for words that have a tenuous link with sex and excrement while commercials during prime-time hours ask viewers if they "are battling erectile dysfunction or are having trouble going to the bathroom."It's ludicrous that in 2009, as a result of sexually repressed right-wing Christian appointments to the FCC, we're still wasting our taxpayer dollars on nonsense such as swear words on broadcast TV (ones that EVERY kid knows and probably uses).

As an example of how ludicrous it has become, I remember a couple of years ago (when the FCC Nazis were in full swing) I happened to be watching some made-for-TV movie. They bleeped out some word like "damn" but left in a scene of a guy sawing his head off.

It's too bad Obama can't clean out Scalia too, he so needs to be removed from any post of judicial authority.