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Court Says Profanity Arguments Can Be Televised

All that talk about "profane" talk not belonging on TV will be on TV after all.

The oral arguments in broadcasters challenge to the FCC's March profanity rulings against Fox Billboard Awards broadcasts will be allowed to be televised.

That's according to the docket of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. The court has informed the attorneys involved that on December 11 it granted a request from C-SPAN to televise the December 20 arguments.

Arguments by broadcasters and the FCC are scheduled for 12 minutes per side, but could and probably will go longer.

The televised coverage is "uncommon but not unprecedented," said Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project, which is representing intervenor Center for Creative voices.

Broadcaster petitioners--led by Fox--are scheduled Wednesday to file their briefs with the court buttressing their case and responding to the FCC's defense of its rulings that the Billboard Awards broadcast of variants of the F-word and S-word by Cher and Nicole Richie were indecent by contemporary community standards.

A C-SPAN  spokesman said that the Ninth and Second Circuits have been historically more amenable to TV coverage. He said no other cable or broadcast news operation has yet asked for a pool feed of the arguments, which it has supplied for Ninth Circuit arguments in the past, but that it would consider such requests.

That means look for the cable news nets and perhaps even the broadcasters, all of the latter have a dog in the fight, to run with it as well.  There is as yet no scheduled time for the arguments.

Veteran First Amendment attorney John Crigler of Garvey Schubert Barer called the coverage news "super," pointing out that federal courts are historically reluctant to allow coverage of oral argument.

"These kinds of cases don't come along often," says Adonis Hoffman, senior VP and counsel for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, "and now that the fines have been statutorily increased, there are more than constitutional principles at stake.  Plus, everyone wants to know where the lines should be drawn."