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Supreme Court Hears Arguments in FCC vs. FOX Television - Considers Policy on Cursing, Nudity on TV

January 21, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has debated whether government regulators can police the airwaves for indecent program content.

Justices on Tuesday engaged in lively debate with lawyers from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the country's television broadcasters.

Some justices questioned the value in having different segments of the media governed by different standards, while others discussed whether broadcast television could be held to a different standard since it receives a government license to use public airwaves.

The case questions the FCC's policy of fining broadcasters for isolated incidents of foul language and nudity between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Broadcasters are seeking to overturn a 1978 ruling that upheld the FCC policy. A federal appeals court later declared it “unconstitutionally vague.”

Networks argue that the current FCC policy is difficult to navigate and unfairly applied, especially when broadcasters are fined for “fleeting” expletives made by celebrities during live televised award shows and not when airing certain movies or documentaries.

The court is expected to rule on the case within the coming months.

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