A federal appeals court has ruled that a Federal Communications Commission policy by which broadcasters could be fined up to $325,000 if an “indecent” curse word (i.e. pretty much ALL curse words) slipped on the air is unconstitutional.The policy, as the Associated Press explains, was adopted in 2004 after U2’s Bono said “f—— brilliant,” during the Golden Globes, causing the FCC to decide that the F-word in any context, “inherently has a sexual connotation.”
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan overturned the policy on First Amendment grounds:
“By prohibiting all ‘patently offensive’ references to sex, sexual organs and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what ‘patently offensive’ means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive. To place any discussion of these vast topics at the broadcaster’s peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship of valuable material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment.”
Some networks are no doubt jumping for joy right now. As Willa Paskin over at Vulture puts it:
The court’s decision will not only be a boon to awards shows, which will now be less fearful of the late-bleeped curse word, but also scripted series like Family Guy, which can now make horse-semen jokes with no fear of retribution.
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