Supreme Court Says FCC Can Fine Fleeting Expletives... For Now

from the next-up,-first-amendment-question dept

The FCC, under former chair Kevin Martin, suddenly took a much greater interest in fining network TV broadcasters for "fleeting expletives" -- generally live performances in which someone uttered a curse word. Prior to that, the FCC had generally ignored such "fleeting" uses and focused on more significant violations. So, when the FCC suddenly changed its policies and fined some TV networks, they sued, complaining that the change was arbitrary. In 2007, an appeals court agreed, calling the policy arbitrary and capricious. However, the Supreme Court has now reversed that, saying that it's within the FCC's power to make the determination of what policy it follows in regulating broadcast content.

However, the case is far from over. So far, this part of the case has only focused on whether or not the rule change was allowed. What hasn't been explored is that, if the rule change is allowed, is that new rule unconstitutional (as a violation of the First Amendment). That's the real question -- so all this stuff about whether the policy was arbitrary and capricious was more like the opening act for the First Amendment headliner that's about to happen. The case has now been sent back to the appeals court, where the free speech implications will be reviewed.

In the meantime, I'm still wondering why the liability should be on the broadcasters in the first place. If Cher or Nicole Ritchie utter a curse word while on live TV, how is that the network's fault? Beyond just the free speech questions, I'm trying to figure out why the liability should be on the networks at all.

Filed Under: fines, first amendment, fleeting expletives, free speech, supreme court
Companies: fcc, fox

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Apr 2009 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Re: why broadcasters are responsible

    I meant don't television viewers request service when they tune to a station? (I know they don't pay)

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.