First Amendment

2nd Circuit: F-Word Not Really Indecent; FCC: Enforcement Threatened


The F-word isn’t indecent enough to trigger Federal Communications Commission penalties when inadvertently used in television and radio broadcasts, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided today.

Its ruling focused on a 2003 Golden Globes presentation on NBC television by U-2’s lead singer, who made the comment “f-ing brilliant” at one point. Penalizing broadcasters for such unintentional violations of FCC rules prohibiting certain language from being used on-air is arbitrary and capricious and might not survive a First Amendment challenge, the appeals court says in an opinion opinion that can be read on a Wall Street Journal web site.

Kevin Martin, who chairs the FCC, says he is concerned that the case will make it hard for the agency to impose indecency fines, period, and may appeal. “Practically, this makes it difficult to go forward on a lot of the cases that are in front of us,” he told the AP.

New York Times (FCC can’t fine broadcasters for bad langauge used by government officials).

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