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Nets To FCC: Rescind Radical Rules

In a combined filing at the FCC, CBS, Fox and NBC took aim at the entirety of the FCC's indecency enforcement regime, saying they wanted the commission to "rescind its radical new intpretation of indecency rules."

In their filing in the FCC review of four profanity findings, including several fleeting ones, the nets asked the FCC to "reverse its radically expanded efforts to regulate through punitive forfeitures what it considers to be "indecent speech."

They argue that the FCC's previous "cautious and limited" enforcement are the "centerpiece" of its defense of having the power to regulate broadcast speech. It is that regime the Supreme Court narrowly upheld, expressly excluding "isolated" uses of "potentially offensive" language, which the FCC is now punishing.

That previous FCC policy--stemming back to the 1970's--did not take action against isolated or fleeting expletives.

The networks argue that the FCC's departure from that restraint has been "an unprecedented [and unconstitutional] intrusion into the creative and editorial process and threatens to bring about the end of truly live broadcast TV."

The networks say that they are not looking for a license to swear at will, pointing out that they have broadcast standards departments to monitor programming.

The FCC has told a federal court that it will review and issue a new order on the four rulings within 60 days of the court's remand grant earlier this month. 
The networks and stations sued the FCC over the profanity findings--against uses of "fuck' and variants of "shit" in programming on Fox, CBS, and ABC--but the court granted the FCC's request to review and seek comment on the decisions. It did not do that the first time becuase it levied not fines or penalties. 

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.