Expletives on prime time television don't violate decency standards, ruled a New York appeals court Monday in a decision that overturned the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Reuters reported June 4.
FCC regulators ruled in March 2006 that News Corp.'s Fox television network had violated decency regulations by broadcasting clips with the words "f**k" and "s**t" during family viewing time slots. The Commission did not impose fines in the decision. Regardless, Fox challenged the decision to the appeals court, arguing that the decency standard was inconsistent and violated free speech protections.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, in a divided decision, said the FCC was "arbitrary and capricious" in introducing new decency standards.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he found it "hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that ‘s**t' and ‘f**k' are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience."
"If we can't restrict the use (of the two obscenities) during prime time, Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want," Martin said in a statement.
Broadcasters could face fines of up to $325, 000 for violating the decency policy.
Fox officials said they were "very pleased with the court's decision", saying "government regulation of content serves no purpose other than to chill artistic expression in violation of the First Amendment."
"Viewers should be allowed to determine for themselves and their families, through the many parental control technologies available, what is appropriate viewing for their home," Fox stated.
The appeals court sent the case back to the FCC and ordered the commission to clarify the decency policy. The FCC could now decide to take the matter to the US Supreme Court.