July 13, 2010
Second Circuit Strikes Down "Fleeting Expletives" Policy On Constitutional Grounds
The Second Circuit has ruled in favor of Fox Broadcasting and other media and against the FCC in the "fleeting expletives" case. Said the Court,
We now hold that the FCC’s policy violates the First Amendment because it is unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here. Thus, we grant the petition for review and vacate the FCC’s order and the indecency policy underlying it.
[T]he absence of reliable guidance in the FCC’s standards chills a vast amount of protected speech dealing with some of the most important and universal themes in art and literature. Sex and the magnetic power of sexual attraction are surely among the most predominant themes in the study of humanity since the Trojan War. The digestive system and excretion are also important areas of human attention. By prohibiting all “patently offensive” references to sex, sexual organs, and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what “patently offensive” means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive. To place any discussion of these vast topics at the broadcaster’s peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship of valuable material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment.
For the foregoing reasons, we strike down the FCC’s indecency policy. We do not suggest that the FCC could not create a constitutional policy. We hold only that the FCC’s current policy fails constitutional scrutiny. The petition for review is hereby GRANTED.
July 13, 2010 | Permalink
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