Court Voids FCC's Policy on Swearing

Indecency policy 'unconstitutionally vague,' judges rule
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 13, 2010 2:40 PM CDT
A Federal Appeals Court struck down the FCC's indecency policy today, July 13, 2010.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A federal appeals court ruled today that an f-bomb or two uttered on live TV isn't such a heinous crime after all. The court struck down the FCC's indecency policy on obscenities as "unconstitutionally vague," the Wall Street Journal reports. The zero-tolerance policy was so strict it violated the broadcasters' First Amendment rights, the court said, "creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here."

Bono started the trouble in 2003 at the Golden Globes when, after winning an award, he said, "This is really, really fucking great." Afterward, the FCC declared for the first time that even a single such utterance makes the networks vulnerable to penalties. They appealed, leading to today's ruling. The decision says the FCC ramped up enforcement after Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction; it even makes use of the word "nipplegate."

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