Morality in Media President Says Federal Court Decision Invalidating the New FCC Policy on 'Fleeting Expletives' Could Have Been Worse and FCC Should Welcome the Opportunity to Justify its Decision
Contact: Robert Peters, Morality in Media, 212-870-3210
NEW YORK, June 5 /Christian Newswire/ -- Morality in Media President Robert Peters had the following comments regarding the decision yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan that the FCC had not adequately justified its new policy for sanctioning "fleeting expletives" and that remanded the matter to the FCC for further proceedings. Under the old policy "fleeting expletives" were exempt from regulation. Under the new and currently invalid policy, "fleeting expletives" are actionable. The decision was 2-1, with one judge dissenting.
"Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan invalidated the FCC's new policy regarding 'fleeting expletives.' Thankfully, the two judges who were in the majority and who were clearly in sympathy with all of the TV networks' arguments in the case, did not take the further step of invalidating the broadcast indecency law altogether. The Court of Appeals' decision also provides the FCC with another opportunity to justify its new policy.
"Reasonable people may differ as to whether the FCC had adequately explained its change in policy regarding 'fleeting expletives.' The dissenting judge expressed the view that the FCC did provide a 'reasoned explanation' for its change and thus complied with the law.
"But it is clear that the FCC could do a better job of justifying its decision by providing evidence that vulgarity has increased dramatically on broadcast TV (particularly during the prime time hours), that the majority of adult Americans are offended by vulgarity on TV, that children don't need to hear 'four letter words' repeated over and over again in order to learn a 'new word' and repeat it, and of the harms associated with cursing and swearing, especially to children.
"I would also suggest guidelines to enable broadcasters to better understand when an 'isolated expletive' may result in an indecency fine – for example, the time of day when programming airs (e.g., from 7-9 pm v. 9-10 pm), the likelihood that children will be in the audience, the nature of the expletive, whether an expletive in live programming should have been anticipated from past experience with the same or similar programming, whether use of the expletive is 'justified' by a journalistic or artistic purpose, and whether the expletive is truly 'isolated.'
"In a better world, there would be no indecency in broadcasting (or on cable/satellite), but having some restraints is better than the open sewer that TV networks are fighting for in the courts."