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Supreme Court addresses censorship, hears FCC indecency case

High Court says context matters when broadcasters air expletives

In 1975, the Supreme Court said broadcast companies could be fined for airing expletives and sexual content during prime time (8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time) when children are more likely to be watching television. But it’s not 1975 anymore, and when the Bush administration noticed many broadcasters pushing the envelope with what they aired during that crucial evening time slot (thank Bono and his Golden Globe F-bomb for that), it stepped in—passing a regulation that allowed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hand down even stiffer fines for use of vulgar language.

For the second time in three years, the Supreme Court is taking the issue up again. Today it will hear a case the FCC brought against Fox after the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, when singer Cher accepted her award on air saying, "I've also had critics for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. So f- - - 'em."


Cathleen Flahardy

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