Supreme Court: TV Indecency Rules Were Too Vague

The Supreme Court today, without dissent, ruled that that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cannot fine Fox and ABC for two isolated utterances of “obscene” words and one instance of brief nudity, respectively. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that because the Federal Communications 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, the Commission’s standards as applied to these broadcasts were vague.” The FCC had sought to fine ABC for a seven-second nude shot of Charlotte Ross in a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue and to fine FOX for “f-bombs” delivered by Cher and Bono in award show acceptance speeches. The Court did not address whether the FCC regulation, going forward, is constitutional.