FCC Loses Court Battle Against TV Networks Over Indecency

The broadcast television networks are celebrating a major victory today, following a New York appellate court ruling that has declared the FCC’s zero-tolerance indecency policy to be a violation of the 1st Amendment’s protection of free speech, according to a report by the LA Times.fcc loses court battle against tv networks over indecency ny appeals

The ruling specifically comes from the 2003 Golden Globes, when U2 front man Bono used an expletive on live TV after receiving an award. The result began a crackdown by the FCC that saw record setting fines levied on broadcasters that aired any programming- including live shows- that had instances of indecency and profanity, not matter how fleeting or unintentional.

In 2006, Congress voted to increase the maximum fine by ten times after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the halftime show of the 2004 Super Bowl, which further empowered the FCC.  In some instances, the FCC also has the power to pull the license of broadcasters altogether.

The three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, ruled that the FCC’s policy was “unconstitutionally vague” and created a “chilling effect” on what broadcasters chose to air. The court found that the threat of such heavy fines from the FCC caused programmers to curtail and self-censor programming solely to avoid fines.

“Under the current policy, broadcasters must choose between not airing or censoring controversial programs and risking massive fines or possibly even loss of their licenses, and it is not surprising which option they choose,” U.S. Circuit Judge Rosemary S. Pooler stated in Tuesday’s 3-0 decision. “Indeed, there is ample evidence in the record that the FCC’s indecency policy has chilled protected speech.”

The FCC now has the option to appeal to the Supreme Court, but has not yet declared what its next step would be.

“If the FCC’s policy is allowed to remain in place, there will undoubtedly be countless other situations where broadcasters will exercise their editorial judgment and decline to pursue contentious people or subjects, or will eschew live programming altogether, in order to avoid the FCC’s fines,” the ruling states. “This chill reaches speech at the heart of the First Amendment.”

In 2007, the same apples court ruled on an FCC case regarding fleeting expletives, and found that the FCC’s policy was “arbitrary and capricious”. The FCC appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, who upheld the appeals court’s decision based on the way the FCC enacted the policies, but returned the case the appeals court to rule on the broader constitutionality of the profanity ban.

The practical results of the ruling should be felt soon. Although FCC restrictions still prevent expletives from being aired between 6am and 10pm during times children may be listening, after 10pm, broadcasters are free to use any language they wish. Live programming shows will also be able to breathe a sigh of relief, as the fines for fleeting expletives will no longer threaten the broadcasters’ licenses.

Movies & TV

Stay inside this fall with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

You can now watch soccer games online with streaming service ESPN+

Launched back in April, ESPN+ is a direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service. For a mere $5 a month or $50 per year, you can have access to the best sports content available including multiple soccer leagues.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Alita: Battle Angel,’ ‘Detective Pikachu,’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's new trailers for cyberpunk adventure Alita: Battle Angel, game adaptation Pokémon Detective Pikachu…
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: The Coen brothers ride again and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Nnarcos: Mexico, and more.

‘Fantastic Beasts’ wins the weekend with underwhelming debut

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald won the weekend box office, but its big debut was a bit underwhelming, with the lowest opening weekend and worst reviews of any Harry Potter film so far.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Home Theater

What’s new on Netflix and what’s leaving in December 2018

Our complete list of what's new on Netflix for December 2018 and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on your bingeing, and also ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Home Theater

What’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in December 2018

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. Follow us to find out what's new on HBO each month. December 2018 brings sci-fi hit Ready Player One and the drama Icebox.

Canceling Amazon Prime is easy, and you might get a refund

Don't be intimidated. Learning how to cancel Amazon Prime is easier than you might think. You might even get a partial or full refund on the cost, depending on how much you've used it. Check out our quick-hit guide for doing so.
Movies & TV

Fresh footage and Willem Dafoe make the final 'Aquaman' trailer special

Jason Momoa will bring Aquaman back to the big screen for a solo feature in December 2018. Here's everything we know so far about the aquatic superhero's live-action adventure in the DC Extended Universe.