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HIGH COURT SIDESTEPS CONTROVERSIAL RULING ON ON-AIR INDECENCY

June 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out rulings by the Federal Communications Commission that fined Fox and ABC for violating federal indecency standards. But the court’s own ruling dealt not with the principal question of free speech that the FCC’s action raised but with the narrower question of whether the commission had properly notified broadcasters that it was tightening its enforcement of rules barring “fleeting expletives” and nudity. Today’s (Friday) New York Times observed that the FCC’s stance on such controversial material appears to vary by the leanings on such matters by the FCC chairman. It pointed out that the current chairman, Julius Genachowski, has not been pursuing many indecency complaints since he was appointed. “All of which leaves broadcasters with little real grasp of what is allowed and what is not. Similarly, the public has no idea what to expect.” And Genachowski himself issued a statement noting that the high court’s ruling “appears to be narrowly limited to procedural issues related to actions taken a number of years ago.” He added, “Consistent with vital First Amendment principles, the F.C.C. will carry out Congress’s directive to protect young TV viewers.”