The next time Bono drops the F-bomb while accepting an award or Janet Jackson’s nipple makes a cameo appearance at the Super Bowl, broadcasters won’t have to worry about facing mammoth fines from the FCC. A federal appeals court has said “f@ck this sh&t” to the controversial ban.
In its ruling released earlier today, the court called the FCC’s anti-obscenity laws “unconstitutionally vague.”
Wrote one judge in the court’s decision:
Under the current policy, broadcasters must choose between not airing or censoring controversial programs and risking massive fines or possibly even loss of their licenses, and it is not surprising which option they choose… Indeed, there is ample evidence in the record that the FCC’s indecency policy has chilled protected speech.
In 2006, in the wake of the horrifying, child-harming terror that was one second of nipple during the Super Bowl, Congress raised the maximum fine for each violation of the FCC obscenity rule to $325,000. Oh, and since each station that airs the offending material can be hit with the fine, the total tab for the networks could reach several millions of dollars per violation.
Fox, which rarely needs to drop the F-bomb to offend, was pleased as punch about the ruling:
We have always felt that the government’s position on fleeting expletives was unconstitutional… While we will continue to strive to eliminate expletives from live broadcasts, the inherent challenges broadcasters face with live television, coupled with the human element required for monitoring, must allow for the unfortunate isolated instances where inappropriate language slips through.
FCC indecency rule struck down by appeals court [L.A. Times]