NEW YORK — A federal appeals court on Tuesday tossed out a government policy that can lead to broadcasters being fined for allowing even a single curse word on live television, concluding that the rule was unconstitutionally vague and had a chilling effect on broadcasters.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan struck down the 2004 Federal Communications Commission policy, which said that profanity referring to sex or excrement is always indecent.
“By prohibiting all `patently offensive’ references to sex, sexual organs and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what `patently offensive’ means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive,” the appeals court wrote.
Now, this won’t mean we’ll suddenly hear all kinds of profanity on network broadcasts. Advertisers don’t appreciate it, and I’ve found that network standards and practices — even on cable networks outside of the FCC’s jurisdiction — keep a pretty tight leash on language. But at least the government won’t be involved in the process.
(By the way, bonus points to whoever guesses the headline reference.)