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Supreme Court restores some sanity to crazy FCC obscenity rulings

Published June 21, 2012 10:04 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning threw sanctions against broadcasters who violated the FCC's policy regulating curse words and nudity on broadcast television.

And the republic is still strong. The sky has not fallen.

In this case, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous, common-sense decision that only the rabid, ridiculous "parents" groups will have any problem with.

The decision is actually extremely narrow. The justices rules 8-0 (with Justice Sonia Sotomayor abstaining) that fleeting nudity on "NYPD Blue" and the unexpected use of expletives on an awards show didn't rise to the level of the sanctions imposed on broadcasters by the Federal Communications Commission.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the ruling that the FCC "failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent."

The incidents in question involved a flash of an actress' behind in a 2002 episode of "NYPD Blue" and expletives uttered live on the Billboard Music Awards in 2002 and 2003.

The FCC should never have fined the broadcasters in the first place. Not just because the Supreme Court says so, but because it was nonsensical when it happened.

The FCC succumbed to pressure in the form of an orchestrated email campaign that blew the incidents wildly out of proportion.

The Supreme Court simply brought it back to earth and back to some degree of sanity.

The justices did not rule on the constitutionality of the FCC's regulations on indecency, but said the FCC is free to revise them.

That certainly seems like a suggestion. And, given that it came from the Supreme Court, it seems like a good idea.

Certainly, the orchestrated email campaigns will begin anew. Perhaps this time the FCC will be smart enough to ignore them.