F- – CC vs. Fox

28 10 2008

This should be interesting:

On Nov. 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a suit against the FCC by Fox, about a fine for broadcasting cuss words.

Cuss words were uttered during an awards show. Because the FCC guidelines regulate profanity over the airwaves (and a very vocal group complained), the FCC fined the network.

I’m sure lawyers everywhere are waiting to see- will the offending words be repeated before the Court? Will they be repeated during questioning by the justices (not likely)? If the words are profane, then will C-Span run into trouble when it broadcasts the audio recording of the oral arguments? If it is unfit for broadcast, will it be unfit for “the nine.”

And how do you argue about the use of a vulgar word in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, without mentioning the words, which may be interpreted as a lack of respect by the justice? That’s what makes it fun!


This issue was famously before the court 30 years ago, in FCC v. Pacifica. The case, tried in the 1978, was about a broadcast of a George Carlin skit about “seven dirty words” that you cannot broadcast. The skit was broadcast, the radio station was spanked, and a court case ensued. The result was a Supreme Court decision stating that the First Amendment does not protect vulgar and offensive speech from regulation by the FCC

Interestingly, the entire judicial opinion did not include any of the allegedly offensive words (but the transcript, in the appendix, was full of them).




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