Appeals court strikes down FCC indecency policy

Appeals court strikes down FCC indecency policy

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s indecency policy is unconstitutionally vague and could create a chilling effect beyond “fleeting expletives” heard on broadcasts, an appeals court ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York arose from a case over Bono, frontman of the rock group U2, who used an expletive when he received an award during the live broadcast of the 2003 Golden Globe Awards.

News Corp’s Fox Television, CBS Corp’s CBS Broadcasting and others sued the FCC, which regulates radio, television, wire, satellite and cable communications.

An FCC representative could not immediately be reached for comment on the ruling. The court heard the case again after the U.S. Supreme Court sent it back following a previous ruling that the FCC indecency policy was “arbitrary and capricious.”

“We now hold that the FCC’s policy violates the First Amendment because it is unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here,” the panel of appeals court judges said in a written ruling on Tuesday.

The court granted the broadcaster’s request for review of the policy.

A Fox spokesman said the broadcaster was extremely pleased with the decision.

“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,” Fox said in a statement.

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