The 8-0 vote by the Supreme Court this morning means broadcast networks have won their long fight against the FCC over current rules governing fleeting expletives and nudity during primetime programming. The justices didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the FCC’s policies, however, meaning that the Court believes the commission does have a say in regulating airwaves and that it can amend its rules for future application. The ruling in today’s case — in which ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox were parties — found that the FCC imposed unfair and excessive punishment over such instances on live and scripted shows, backing previous lower court decisions that threw out the tenents of the FCC’s no-tolerance policy, which includes huge fines against broadcasters. The now-famous incidents in question were a 2003 NYPD Blue episode on ABC that showed a woman’s naked body, and Fox’s telecasts of the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards, in which presenters Cher and Nicole Richie used profanity during the broadcast. “The commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. Said ABC in a statement: “We’re pleased with the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the episode of NYPD Blue, and we are reviewing the entire ruling carefully.”
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