Free Speech

Federal Court Strikes Down FCC Rule

In a landmark ruling, a federal appeals court in New York struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s strict rules governing indecency as a violation of the First Amendment. Broadcast TV networks sued the FCC after being slapped with huge fines when celebrities such as Bono, Nicole Richie, and Cher all uttered expletives on live broadcasts of awards shows. Under the Bush administration and after Janet Jackson’s flashing at the 2004 Super Bowl, the FCC began cracking down on indecency on television. The court said the FCC’s policy was “unconstitutionally vague” and created a “chilling effect” on the programs networks could air. “Under the current policy, broadcasters must choose between not airing or censoring controversial programs and risking massive fines or possibly even loss of their licenses, and it is not surprising which option they choose," the ruling judge wrote in her decision.