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Networks Prepare To Challenge Remand

Fox network and its affiliates are expected Friday to file their opposition to the FCC's request for a remand of four profanity findings, two against Fox broadcasts.

No word from NBC or CBS, but both are expected to file their own oppositions to the move. ABC, by contrast, is supporting the remand. It alone among the networks has rejoined the National Association of Broadcasters, which the vast majority of affiliates also belong to.

The FCC, with the support of all but the Fox affiliates, has asked a New York court to let it take another crack at the four indecency findings it levied against "fleeting profanities," issued as part of its omnibus March indecency orders.

The affiliates and the networks together challenged those four findings in court.

Ordinarily, the FCC proposes an indecency finding--and fine--and gives stations the chance to defend themselves. But, saying it wanted to give stations the clarity they sought on what the FCC considered indecent--the FCC found the broadcasts--Two Billboard Music Awards on Fox, an NYPD Blue episode and a CBS Early Show--indecent for fleeting profanities without fining them, without holding it against them at renewal time, and also without providing the normal appeals process.

The FCC now wants to provide stations that defense, with a promise to rule again within 60 days. In the meantime, it has asked the court to stay oral arguments in the challenge, scheduled to begin in September at the earliest.

While the ABC, CBS, and NBC affiliate groups support the FCC move, saying they want the chance to defend their broadcasts, the networks want the court case to proceed without delay, arguing the FCC has had ample time to mull the issue in the two years since ruling, in the case of a Bono adjectival f-word on NBC's Golden Globes, that fleeting profanities could be indecent.