So here’s the scenario. A media company broadcasts something the Federal Communications Commission deems indecent. The FCC decides to revise its policy in response to the broadcast and then fines the media company for it after the fact.
The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t think so. In a rare unanimous ruling, the high court threw out the fines and sanctions issued by the FCC. The court concluded that the broadcasters could not have known in advance that the broadcasts would later be deemed indecent and subject to fines. In other words, they said it wasn’t fair to change the rules in the middle of the game.
What the court did not do is free “over the air” broadcasters from the regulations that other media outlets (cable, the Internet, etc.) are free from.
The indecent broadcasts included a brief display of nudity on ABC’s NYPD Blue and several obscenities uttered by Cher, Bono and Nicole Richie during different awards shows. In case you’re having trouble remembering; The NYPD Blue episode, "Nude Awakening," aired on February 25, 2003. Yes, the wheels of justice do turn very slowly.
What the court did not do is free “over the air” broadcasters from the regulations that other media outlets (cable, the Internet, etc.) are free from. While that argument may be compelling, the government still controls the airwaves and can dictate different rules, even if many viewers don’t realize they are switching back and forth between a cable channel and a broadcast channel. It appears that, for now, broadcast outlets (television and radio) will still have to adhere to the current policy.
In case you were wondering, the infamous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction was not part of this ruling.That case is currently making its way through the judicial process. The government has appealed a lower court’s ruling that threw out the fine in that case.
In regards to the case just wrapped up by the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “It is unnecessary for the court to address the constitutionality of the current policy” which means we might get to relive the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show from Reliant Stadium all over again. Anybody want to place on bet on how that ruling will come out?
Now granted, the faster technology moves, the harder it is for laws and regulations to keep up. Social standards can also change, causing even more confusion as to what is, and what is not acceptable. Still, it seems like we just wasted a bunch of money. In the last month, the government has lost its case against John Edwards, Roger Clemens and now this.
With a record like that, they very well might end up replacing the Astros for last place.