WASHINGTON -- In a victory for TV networks but a setback for efforts to shield children from coarse language, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday that broadcasters cannot be penalized for expletives that are considered impromptu.
The three-judge panel in New York repudiated the Federal Communications Commission's recent crackdown on broadcast indecency, calling its efforts "arbitrary and capricious."
My gut reaction is that this will be overturned on appeal, but the ruling makes for VERY interesting reading if you are interested in broadcast free speech (still going through it). Also, the response from the FCC is hillarious.
One important point that is worth making is that this is NOT a reversal of the general rule regarding the use of indecent speech on the air.
Basically, it is not as simple as "you can't say fuck on the air" and it has never been that simple. (For example, can you explain the difference between profanity and indecency? The decision discusses this and its quite interesting.) Since 2003 the FCC has started enforcing a new prohibition on "off the cuff," isolated cursing that didn't exist before. This decision concerns that rule and has nothing to do with prohibitions on general indecency that have existed for decades.
Judges toss FCC rule on cursing | Chicago Tribune