Court to Hear Indecency Challenge

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a challenge to the Federal Communication Commission's policy on broadcast indecency.

Fox Broadcasting, along with ABC, CBS and NBC, is challenging FCC policy that allows fines for so-called "fleeting expletives" uttered during live broadcasts.

The case before the court deals specifically with two airings on Fox of the "Billboard Music Awards." NBC is involved in a separate challenge after U-2 lead singer Bono used the F-word during a Golden Globe Awards show in 2003.

CBS is challenging a fine imposed for Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Other incidents included in this case cover profanity uttered by Cher and Nicole Ritchie during entertainment award ceremonies in 2002 and 2003.

The FCC has appealed a New York federal court ruling that nullified the agency's enforcement of the profanity rule. In that decision, the judges said that the FCC had failed to adequately explain to the networks that it had changed its policy. The court said the new policy was invalid and could violate the First Amendment. The case will be heard in the fall.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin says he's pleased the Supreme Court will review the policy. He says there's an obligation to enforce laws restricting indecent language on television and radio when children are in the audience.

Fox Broadcast is also pleased. It says the decision will give it the chance to argue that the FCC's expanded enforcement of the indecency law is unconstitutional in today's diverse media marketplace.


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