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Supreme Court Defers on Fleeting Expletives Case

The LA Times Reports:

Last year, an appeals court in New York blocked the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing its new rule against “fleeting expletives.” And Bush administration lawyers had urged the Supreme Court to take up the dispute and to give the FCC a green light to enforce the new policy.

The appeal was considered by the high court in its closed conference on Friday, but the justices did not say today whether they had agreed to hear it or deny it.

Lawyers for Fox TV and the other networks had urged the justices to stay out of the case. They said the FCC should be forced to explain why the agency had changed course in 2004 and adopted a near zero-tolerance policy for broadcast expletives.

The FCC case could be decided narrowly by focusing on whether the agency had justified its new policy. Or the justices could focus broadly on whether the 1st Amendment’s free-speech guarantee shields broadcasters from being fined for inadvertently allowing an expletive to be aired during a live performance.

Network executives say they have a firm policy against broadcasting vulgar words during the hours when children and families are watching. On occasion during a live broadcasts, however, guests or performers have uttered the f-word, and a network monitor failed to bleep it out in time.

The incidents cited by the FCC occurred during the broadcasts of entertainment industry awards shows.

If the court eventually votes to take up the case, FCC vs. Fox TV, it will be heard in the fall. If the justices deny the appeal, the FCC will have to try again to persuade a lower court to allow its new rule to be enforced.(source)

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