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Jackson Ok Would Tee Up Court Fight

The AP is reporting that the FCC plans to uphold the Janet Jackson fine.

If so, that likely means the commission has decided to roll that, and perhaps its current reconsideration of the Bono F-word indecency finding against NBC U, into the package of TV-related indecency actions that at least one commissioner expects to be released in the next few days.

A second set of radio-related actions is expected to follow that.

Originally, the reconsideration of the Jackson and Bono decisions--requested by CBS and NBC U--were expected to be released separately, but that was when the other TV items were projected by several of the commissioners to be issued in late fall.

Upholding the decision in both Jackson and Bono would be no shocker, since together they are the centerpieces of the FCC's promise to Congress that it is serious about indecency enforcement. Three of the four sitting commissioners supported both decisions, and the fourth, Republican Deborah Tate, is on the record saying content needs a clean-up.

Upholding the proposed Jackson fine would set the stage for a likely court challenge.

It has been two years since the Jackson reveal. CBS immediately apologized, but the uproar in Washington and an effective e-mail complaint campaign ensued, and the FCC proposed fining CBS $550,000.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves then told TV critics in 2004 that the fine was "patently ridiculous" and that the company was "not going to stand for it."

CBS told the FCC it shouldn't have to pay, as have a number of First Amendment lawyers, and the procedural back and forth has been in the FCC's court.

If CBS does sue, it has enlisted top First Amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere for the task. He helped Playboy channel end a partial ban on its programming, winning a Supreme Court decision that a ban on adult cable content was overbroad when there was available blocking technology.

The broadcast networks have standardized their ratings information and gotten behind the v-chip blocking technology, which could set the stage for arguing that, like cable, indecent speech regulations are overbroad in an age where technology allows for broadcast-content control similar to cable's.