Supreme Court Rules Profanity & Nudity Is OK On Broadcast TV

The Supreme Court has overruled the Federal Communication commission policy that regulates curse words and nudity on broadcast television, tossing aside fines and sanctions imposed upon them in an 8-0 decision. Those fines were in excess of $1.24 million.

While the justices did not issue a broad ruling on the constitutionality of the FCC indecency policy, they did conclude that broadcasters could not have known in advance that obscenities would be uttered during an awards show and brief nudity during an episode of NYPD Blue would allow for sanctions.

Fox News reports,

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The case arose from a change in the FCC's long-standing policy on curse words. For many years, the agency did not take action against broadcasters for one-time uses of curse words. But, following several awards shows with cursing celebrities in 2002 and 2003, the FCC toughened its policy after it concluded that a one-free-expletive rule did not make sense in the context of keeping the air waves free of indecency when children are likely to be watching television.

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But Kennedy said the commission did not adequately explain that under the new policy "a fleeting expletive or a brief shot of nudity could be actionably indecent."

The stepped-up indecency enforcement, including issuing record fines for violations, also was spurred in part by widespread public outrage following Janet Jackson's breast-baring performance during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show.

The court said the FCC is "free to modify its current indecency policy" in light of the ruling.

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