June 22, 2012- Broadcasters had anticipated an important constitutional ruling on the authority of the government to regulate what is allowed to be said and shown on the airwaves. However, they only won a small victory in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The justices voted unanimously to throw out the fines and penalties sanctioned against ABC and Fox networks that violated a policy by the Federal Communication Commission that regulated the nudity and curse words on the television airwaves.
The court, forging a constitutional ruling that was broader, concluded that broadcasters could not have been aware in advance that the obscenities spoken during Fox station awards shows and a short display of nudity on an NYPD Blue episode on ABC could cause penalties.
Proposed fines for ABC and over 45 affiliates totaled close to $1.24 million. Broadcasters argued that revolution through technology that has given us Internet, cable and satellite television had made rules of this type obsolete. The regulations are only applied to broadcast stations.
The Court said that the FCC could revise its policy on indecency, which is set up to keep the airwaves free of material that is objectionable during times when the viewing audience usually includes children.
It was the court’s second time confronting the issue but not ruling conclusively on the policy set by the FCC on isolated expletives. The very narrow decision by the court coupled with the five months that have passed between January’s arguments and the decision on Thursday, could mean the justices were not able to reach an agreement on a broader decision.