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Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Major TV Networks in Case Against FCC

Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

The Supreme Court has finally come to a decision on a hotly contested case, one that will affect the entire nation and could have possible constitutional implications. But, it wasn’t about Obamacare, it’s about what on TV.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of major broadcasting networks in the FOX vs. FCC case. The court threw out nearly $1.2 million in fines levied against the networks for brief instances of vulgar language and nudity, claiming that the FCC did not give the stations fair notice of the violations.

The decision states, “The Commission 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 Commission’s standards as applied to these broadcasts were vague.”

While many media outlets have reported, or at least implied, the decision means the FCC can no longer regulate curse words and nudity on television, the court only applied the decision to this specific case, ruling that the FCC can no longer apply arbitrary penalties to broadcasters.

The court refused to address the broader constitutional implications of the case. “We adhere to the principle of deciding constitutional questions only in the context of the particular case before the Court,” said the ruling.

The courts may have taken care of addressing issues that were brought up way back in 2003. (Remember, this whole thing came about because of uncensored expletives on an awards show and an actress who bared her bottom on prime time TV.)  However, by sidestepping the bigger issue, that is the constitutionality of the FCC’s crackdown on indecency, they’ve just opened themselves up to more lawsuits like this. They haven’t really solved anything, they’ve just put it on the back burner for now. But for now, I’m fine with that. The Supreme Court doesn’t need to focus on the FCC right now, they need to focus on the upcoming Obamacare ruling, a ruling that will really affect us.

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