Supreme Court Upholds FCC Rulemaking on Indecency

Today's 5-4 Supreme Court decision addressing the FCC's 2004 "Golden Globe Order" -- which "declared for the first time that an expletive (nonliteral) use of the F-Word or the S-Word could be actionably indecent, even when the word is used only once" -- will be of primary interest to practitioners and students of administrative law. It does not address the more interesting question: whether the FCC's tough stance against the use of naughty language is constitutional. (For the record, the F-word in question is not fudge and the S-word is not sugar. Use your imagination.)

The FCC's prudish sense of "indecency" is out-of-step with the reality of modern American life. This isn't surprising since the FCC's new-found puritanism was dictated by the religious right, which is responsible for "the lion's share" of indecency complaints. According to the FCC's revised sense of indecency, not only are the fleeting mentions of common expletives on live broadcasts indecent, so are brief views of female (and presumably male) buttocks, Janet Jackson's n*pple, and even "pixilated body parts."

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By the time the Fox News case (which involves expletives uttered by Cher and Nicole Richey at two Billboard Music Awards broadcasts) is resolved, it might be clear whether the FCC will lighten up during the Obama administration. Let's hope it does. Kids should be protected (if they need protection) from naughty words and pixilated body parts by their parents, not by their government.

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    Look at the bright side (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by catmandu on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 09:52:01 PM EST
    baerhaps the networks will put only witty intellegent people who don't need to fall
    back on unimaginative profanity to entertain.  On the whole, modern television really sucks.

    I hope you're right (none / 0) (#5)
    by blogtopus on Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 12:12:18 AM EST
    Because then the characters will be so unreal and unsympathetic to the average american that people will just turn off the TV. Yeah, right. ;-P

    Just out of curiosity (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by catmandu on Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 07:22:38 AM EST
    What do you think  of cursing?  I hear someone let loose a barrage of curses because of something totally minor and silly, I just think uneducated and limited vocabulary.

    Depends (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by sj on Wed Apr 29, 2009 at 09:56:20 AM EST
    Is the invective unloaded on a minor child or a stubbed toe?

    Because that stubbed toe totally justifies a barrage of curses.


    re pixelated body parts (none / 0) (#1)
    by DFLer on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 05:54:22 PM EST
    why doesn't the FCC fine for broadcasting "Girls Gone Wild" ads?


    Probably because (none / 0) (#2)
    by TChris on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 06:01:57 PM EST
    they air on cable, not on broadcast TV (at least the ones I've seen).

    sorry Zorba (none / 0) (#3)
    by TChris on Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 06:45:00 PM EST
    I had to delete your comment because you spelled out the f- and s-words.  Not that we like to practice censorship, but TL policy prohibits the use of naughty words because law firm filters have, in the past, prevented individuals from accessing TalkLeft at work when the filters encounter those words.