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SCOTUS Takes On Case Of TV Profanity

From an outraged (any form of censorship that is not applied against conservatives) Washington Post:

Supreme Court Takes Up Case of Use of Profanity on TV

By Jerry Markon
Wednesday, November 5, 2008; Page A02

It’s not every day that a top lawyer for the Bush administration, standing before the black-robed justices of the Supreme Court, invokes the specter of “Big Bird dropping the F-bomb on Sesame Street.”

Yet it was that kind of morning yesterday in the august courtroom, where the justices weighed a new government policy that can punish television networks for a one-time, or “fleeting,” expletive, as opposed to a stream of profanities. The case came about after singer Cher dismissed her critics by saying “[expletive] ’em” during a live awards show in 2002, and celebrity Nicole Richie told millions of viewers in 2003: “Have you ever tried to get cow [expletive] out of a Prada purse? It’s not so [expletive] simple.” …

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. debated with a lawyer for Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network, which aired the Cher and Richie remarks, over whether such words inherently denote offensive “sexual or excretory activities” — the definition the Federal Communications Commission used to cite Fox for broadcasting indecent material…

The government has imposed decency standards on broadcasters since the 1920s, and currently the FCC prohibits the broadcast of sexual or excretory content on radio and television between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., when children are most likely to be in the audience…

Television networks protested, but Congress in 2006 raised the maximum indecency fine from $32,500 to $325,000.

Fox filed suit, arguing that the FCC’s policy change was arbitrary and that its First Amendment rights had been violated. A federal appeals court in New York agreed, issuing a 2 to 1 decision last year that questioned whether the FCC has the right to police airwaves for offensive language. (The FCC has no authority over cable and satellite radio and TV.) …

Carter Phillips, an attorney for Fox, questioned what he called the FCC’s shifting definitions of indecency and raised the specter of stations being afraid to broadcast live events for fear that someone might curse. Recently, he said, a Vermont public television station excluded a political candidate from a live debate because he had sworn during a previous public forum.

But Phillips ran into resistance from several conservative justices, especially Scalia, who decried what he called the “coarsening” of broadcast television.

A recent study by the Parents Television Council found that the use of expletives has nearly doubled in prime-time broadcast television since 1998, and the council’s president, Tim Winter, said that without Supreme Court intervention “we’re going to see a tidal wave of ever more graphic material.”

But Marjorie Heins, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations that filed a brief supporting Fox, called on the FCC to let broadcasters make their own judgments.

“There’s always a risk in a society that values free expression that someone will be offended,” she said.

This is undoubtedly what Senator Schumer had in mind when he was comparing talk radio to pornography (unfavorably).

Please note that the ACLU will go to the mat for pornography — but never for political speech.

Why is that?

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, November 5th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “SCOTUS Takes On Case Of TV Profanity”

  1. curvyred says:

    Speaking of the ACLU, why aren’t they helping Joe the Plumber whose civil rights were clearly violated by the government workers in Ohio?

  2. BillK says:

    The right has no rights.

    Recall I’ve mentioned time and time again that when the right offends someone, it’s “hate speech.”

    When the left offends someone it’s “fostering a discussion.”

  3. sheehanjihad says:

    Speaking of the ACLU, why aren’t they helping Joe the Plumber?

    Because Joe the plumber isnt a terrorist, a pedophile, a leftist, a marxist, a communist, a killer, a socialist, a democrat, or a foreigner!

    Joe the Plumber is an American. That is why the ACLU wont touch him with their tentacles ever!

  4. BillK says:

    In answer, the ACLU is too busy filing a lawsuit to overturn California’s gay marriage ban:


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