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Supreme Court Rules FCC Had No Right To Fine Networks For Swearing

After years of hearings, appeals and harsh words, the FCC’s crusade to fine ABC and Fox over nudity and awards show swear words has ended in defeat. The Supreme Court ruled today in a unanimous decision that the FCC had no right to call the content indecent when it gave no prior notice to either network that it was altering its policies.

Before the 2000s, the Federal Communications Commission generally let obscenities impulsively uttered during live telecasts go, but almost overnight, the censorship organization rapidly changed course and doled out penalties after Cher, Bono and Nicole Richie all dropped f-bombs during different telecasts. The networks asked the Court to be freed from all regulations and penalties imposed by the FCC, but the justices refused to issue such a broad ruling. Instead, they asked the FCC to amend its policies, ideally to be more clear about what’s objectionable and what isn’t.

According to Fox News, the Court also overturned the fine ABC was issued for showing Charlotte Ross’ butt during an episode of NYPD Blue. At the time, the FCC objected to it because she apparently didn’t cover herself up fast enough when she was walked in on.

The decision is no doubt a win for the networks, but it’s definitely not a huge win. The FCC didn’t really lose any power in the matter. It just kind of got embarrassed and chastised by the Court. Look for more rigid and clear guidelines in the future, as well as more court cases whenever matters like this come up.

Mack Rawden
Mack Rawden

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.