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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

(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."

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Bono started the trouble in 2003 at the Golden Globes when, after winning an award, he said, "This is really, really f---ing 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."
(Read more FCC stories.)

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