Supreme Court to Weigh FCC’s Authority to Regulate Broadcast Indecency

By:  Dave Bohon
01/09/2012
       
Supreme Court to Weigh FCC’s Authority to Regulate Broadcast Indecency

In what pro-family groups are calling the most important broadcast indecency case in over three decades, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 10 on the extent to which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the authority to implement rules concerning what is permissible on television, and to fine networks which push the boundaries. If the High Court rules against the tighter controls, as networks hope, nudity, immoral sexual content, and profanity will overwhelm the airwaves, the conservative watchdog groups warn.

At issue in the case, reported CNN, is whether or not the FCC “may constitutionally enforce its policies on ‘fleeting expletives’ and scenes of nudity on television programs, both live and scripted.” In the past the FCC has handed out hefty penalties to broadcasters for decency infractions.

Among the more notorious examples of on-air indecency which the federal agency has targeted is the now-legendary incident during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show in which Janet Jackson “accidentally” exposed herself. Also cited are a 2003 episode of the police drama NYPD blue which included a scene with a naked woman; a pair of Fox-network-sponsored Billboard Music Awards shows in 2002 and 2003 during which producers failed to censor profanity uttered by singers Cher and Nicole Richie; and the 2003 televised Golden Globes awards show during which singer Bono dropped the “F-bomb” while giving an acceptance speech.

In what pro-family groups are calling the most important broadcast indecency case in over three decades, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 10 on the extent to which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the authority to implement rules concerning what is permissible on television, and to fine networks which push the boundaries. If the High Court rules against the tighter controls, as networks hope, nudity, immoral sexual content, and profanity will overwhelm the airwaves, the conservative watchdog groups warn.

At issue in the case, reported CNN, is whether or not the FCC “may constitutionally enforce its policies on ‘fleeting expletives’ and scenes of nudity on television programs, both live and scripted.” In the past the FCC has handed out hefty penalties to broadcasters for decency infractions.

Among the more notorious examples of on-air indecency which the federal agency has targeted is the now-legendary incident during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show in which Janet Jackson “accidentally” exposed herself. Also cited are a 2003 episode of the police drama NYPD blue which included a scene with a naked woman; a pair of Fox-network-sponsored Billboard Music Awards shows in 2002 and 2003 during which producers failed to censor profanity uttered by singers Cher and Nicole Richie; and the 2003 televised Golden Globes awards show during which singer Bono dropped the “F-bomb” while giving an acceptance speech.

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