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Supremes Take Indecency Case Involving ‘Fleeting Expletives’

The case will be argued in the fall.

The Supreme Court said this week it will hear a broadcast indecency case — the first major broadcast indecency case for the high court in 30 years.

The case will be argued in the fall.

It concerns the FCC’s defense of its “omnibus” indecency order, which involved the commission’s decision to punish “fleeting” expletives. Experts say the outcome of the case could overturn the agency’s authority to regulate indecency content or further solidify that authority.

Fox Broadcasting Co., along with ABC, CBS and NBC, challenged the new policy after the commission said broadcasts of entertainment awards shows in 2002 and 2003 were indecent because of profanity uttered by Bono, Cher and Nicole Richie. A federal appeals court said the new policy was invalid and could violate the First Amendment.

No fines were issued in the incidents, but the FCC could impose fines for future violations of the policy.

The FCC appealed to the Supreme Court after a lower court nullified the commission’s enforcement of the rule, saying the agency had not adequately explained why it changed the policy on fleeting expletives.