FCC calls broadcast indecency court case audacious


The FCC’s indecency enforcement has been called into question and largely thrown out, as it currently exists, at the appellate court level. Now the FCC is telling the Supreme Court that the broadcast argument that the rules are vague is “an audacious attempt to overturn Congress’s longstanding judgment…” on the matter.

The FCC adds that parents have long relied on the FCC to make sure that children are “protected from indecent material on the public airwaves.”

The Commission said argued once again that there is nothing vague about the indecency of the “F” and “S” words as applied to the Fox case involving fleeting utterances. It said Fox proved it, by taking the opportunity of delayed broadcast to the West Coast to bleep the offending words out, which it would not have done had it not known them to be objectionable.

The FCC argued that ABC was trying to duck an indecency finding for brief nudity in an episode of “NYPD Blue” by arguing that the FCC had never ruled that other similar incidents were indecent. It argued that such a finding “would cripple the FCC’s ability to respond to the varied forms that broadcast indecency can take.”

The FCC believes that broadcasters are trying to level the playing field, and cite an NAB amicus brief to support the belief, seeking better content parity with cable and satellite programmers. But the FCC argues the case is not strong enough to overturn existing indecency enforcement precedent.

RBR-TVBR observation: Regardless of what the FCC says, the indecency rules are indeed vague and inconsistently enforced, and the FCC’s treatment of fleeting expletives was changed on the fly. It will be very interesting to see how this case turns out – we expect that the lower court findings against the FCC will be upheld.