FCC Profanity Policy Kiboshed By Supreme Court
The FCC’s profanity policy was curbed today, with the highest court in the land ruling against the Federal Communications Commission in a unanimous decision.
The FCC’s profanity policy ruling specifically referenced two incidents. One was involving a “person named Nicole Ritchie,” who nearly a decade ago uttered a profane phrase, remarking at the Billboard Awards on Fox, ”have you ever tried to get cow **** out of a Prada purse? It’s not so ****ing simple.”
The other involved the ABC show NYPD Blue, and their decision to air a scene involving a child and a woman’s buttocks. Per the FCC’s profanity policy, the footage was “pandering, titillating and shocking” and further, cast the show’s viewership in a “voyeuristic position.”
While the FCC’s profanity policy may suggest American viewers are leaning on a fainting couch clutching their pearls, the Supreme Court was in agreement that the incidents in 2002 and 2003 were vague and difficult to gauge as far as overall indecency goes.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman is a lawyer for artists rights groups, and he explains that the Supreme Court’s FCC profanity policy ruling is correct, but that overall, artists are in a rough spot to comply due to the nebulous standards:
“The court correctly held that the FCC’s confusing statements left broadcasters in the dark about what they could do… Unfortunately, by ducking the First Amendment issues, the uncertainty remains. This will have a chilling effect on broadcasters and artists.”
Fox spokesman Dan Berger said the company was satisfied with the ruling, but also indicated that the FCC’s profanity policy is alarmingly vague:
“We are pleased… The court recognized that the case has significant First Amendment implications that require notice to be clearer.”
By law, the FCC is permitted to fine broadcasters more than $300,000 per incident for airing indecent material between 6 AM and 10 PM.