The Supreme Court, as expected, didn’t rule on health care on Thursday, but it did rule on an important case involving nudity and cursing that included the F-word, Cher and George Carlin in its decision.
The decision on Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Stations was about three incidents where the FCC wanted to punish Fox and ABC for what it deemed as offensive content.
Fox was facing potential fines from the FCC for two incidents of “fleeting” cursing during live broadcasts involving Cher and Nicole Richie. ABC was in hot water for showing the naked buttocks of actress Charlotte Ross in an episode of “NYPD Blue.” In the ABC incident, the fine was $1.2 million.
The court found that the FCC didn’t provide fair notice to both networks. Also, the ruling was specific to the three incidents, and not meant to alter the FCC’s policy about broadcast regulations about obscenity.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a unanimous court stated that, “The Commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent.”
The networks had also hoped the court would reconsider a 34-year-old precedent set in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, which involved a broadcast of comedian George Carlin’s “filthy words” comedy routine on a radio station.
In its decision, Kennedy said it was unnecessary to reconsider the FCC v. Pacifica ruling.
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