Broadcasters have won the latest round in their ongoing bout with US TV regulators over the limits of decency on the small screen.
In their judgment, the justices sided with Fox and ABC against the Federal Communication Commission gives the edge to the two broadcaster over the broadcasting of momentary expletives and nudity. But the ruling, issued eight votes to nil with Justice Sonya Sotomayor recusing herself, does nothing to change the fundamental constitutional limits of decency on daytime television as the court declined to consider the first amendment aspects of the case.
The ruling related to two separate incidents in which the FCC moved against broadcasters for indecency transmitted before the 10pm watershed. The first concerned a Fox broadcasting of the Billboard Music Awards in 2002 in which Cher said “fuck” on live TV, followed by a similar expletive by Nicole Richie at the same awards the following year.
The second was a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue, in which the actress Charlotte Ross exposed her backside for seven seconds. In the outcome, the regulators fined ABC $1.4m for indecency but let Fox off with a reprimand.
The supreme court found that in both cases the broadcasters had been given insufficient notice to be aware that they were in breach of the rules. Previous decisions by the FCC, the court noted, had taken no action against TV networks for isolated and brief moments of nudity.
The author of the ruling, Anthony Kennedy, wrote: “Regulated parties should know what is required of them so they may act accordingly; and precision and guidance are necessary so that those enforcing the law do not act in an arbitrary or discriminatory way. When speech is involved, rigorous adherence to those requirements is necessary to ensure that ambiguity does not chill protected speech.”
Read the whole story: theguardian