High Court to Consider Profanity Case

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The Supreme Court has agreed to take up case on the use of profanity on the airways, the Court's first major case on broadcast indecency in 30 years.

Fox, along with ABC, CBS and NBC have challenged a Federal Communications Commission policy that now allows for fines against broadcasters who use "fleeting expletives."

Watch for more from the FCC's Penny Young Nance on contolling the use of profanity over the airwaves.

The commission had determined that broadcasts of entertainment awards shows in 2002 and 2003 were indecent because of profanity uttered by celebrities during the shows. No fines were issued in the incidents, but the FCC said it could impose fines for future violations of the policy.

Obliged to Protect Children

FCC chairman Kevin Martin says they have an obligation to enforce laws restricting indecent language over the airways when children are in the audience.

"The Commission, Congress and most importantly parents understand that protecting our children is our greatest responsibility," Martin said.

But a federal appeals court ruled the policy was invalid and could violate the First Amendment. The New York Appeals Court said the agency had failed to adequately explain why it had changed its policy.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the FCC said that the agency has "hundreds of thousands of complaints" pending, regarding the broadcast of expletives. He argued that the appeals court decision has left the agency "accountable for the coarsening of the airwaves while simultaneously denying it effective tools to address the problem."

The appeal also argued that the FCC's explanation of its policy was well reasoned and that the appeals court decision was at odds with the landmark 1978 indecency case, FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, the last broadcast indecency case heard by the Supreme Court.

Lawyers for the networks said the old policy worked well for 30 years and that broadcasters had no reason suddenly to allow for "fleeting expletives."

The case will be argued in the fall. The case is FCC v. Fox Television Stations, 07-582.

Source: The Associated Press

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