Appeals Court Stays FCC Indecency Ruling

Sep 8, 2006  •  Post A Comment

A U.S. appeals court on Thursday stayed a Federal Communications Commission ruling that four television broadcasts featured profanity violated decency standards and gave the agency two months to consider broadcasters’ rebuttals.

The FCC had requested a delay after having second thoughts about one part of the procedure it followed in March in making an omnibus ruling on a number of indecency complaints intended to set guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed on TV.

In the four cases the FCC ruled as “indecent” comments made on ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” CBS’s “The Early Show” and the 2002 and 2003 Billboard music awards shows on Fox, but while naming stations airing the shows, didn’t fine them. Normally the FCC asks the stations cited to respond before a fine is issued, but the FCC didn’t seek comments because there was not a fine. The stations said they weren’t provided due process.

While the three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 2nd Circuit granted the FCC’s request, it went further, also blocking the FCC temporarily from using the cases as precedents.

FCC spokeswoman Tamara Lipper said the agency was pleased with the court’s decision because only a limited portion of the omnibus order was stayed.

“Hollywood argues that they should be able to say the f-word on television whenever they want. The commission continues to believe they are wrong, and there should be some limits on what can be shown on television.”