Supreme Court Backs FCC's Profanity Policy

But justices decline to rule on ban's threat to First Amendment
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 28, 2009 12:51 PM CDT
Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia addresses a group of law students, lawyers and faculty members at the Roger Williams University law school in Bristol, RI.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court ruled today that the Federal Communications Commission may fine broadcasters for even a single utterance of a curse word, Lyle Denniston writes for SCOTUSblog. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the FCC’s recent switch in policy from discouraging “dirty words” to a stringent ban on “fleeting expletives” was neither “arbitrary nor capricious.”

Justice Antonin Scalia noted that strict controls were especially needed for awards shows featuring “foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood.” The decision settles only one aspect of the case—the Second Circuit Court had asked the higher court to decide the ban’s First Amendment ramifications before ruling itself. The Supreme Court, however, would only settle the smaller issue: “We see no reason to abandon our usual procedures in a rush to judgment without a lower court opinion.”