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WASHINGTON (RNS) Conservative groups blasted a federal court ruling that overturned a policy of the Federal Communications Commission intended to crack down on unscripted curse words and wardrobe malfunctions.
Spurred on by celebrity slip-ups from Bono and Cher, the 2004 FCC policy fined television networks that did not censor indecency, however spontaneous.
Broadcasting giants like Fox and ABC challenged the “fleeting expletive” rule as they tried to determine where to draw the line for sexual content and controversial language.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday (July 13) that the agency’s policy was “unconstitutionally vague” and a violation of the First Amendment. Conservative family groups, however, disagree.
“We urge the FCC to get tough with Fox and stand ready to revoke the licenses of any and all broadcasters who refuse to comply with the terms of those licenses,” said Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council.
The PTC cited Fox’s “American Dad” as an example of an indecent show
— and the source of more than 100,000 complaints filed with the FCC
—- and the controversial cartoon “Family Guy.”
Washington-based Concerned Women for America also disagreed with the ruling.
“A federal broadcast license is a privilege held in the public trust,” said Jan LaRue, the group’s chief counsel. “Pumping sewage into American homes during the family hour violates that trust.”
The court said the FCC policy did not specify what comprised offensive material, other than banning sexual and excretory organs.
They called the attempt to control content “chilling,” and said “even if the FCC were able to provide a complete list of all such expressions, new offensive and indecent words are invented every day.”
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, in a statement, urged the FCC to appeal the ruling.
“Sadly, the court focused its energies on the purported chilling effect our indecency policy has on broadcasters of indecent programming, and no time focusing on the chilling effect today’s decision will have on the ability of American parents to safeguard the interests of their children.”
— Ankita Rao
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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