The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that broadcasters did not have to pay fines levied by the FCC for fleeting expletives or brief nudity because the FCC had not provided sufficient warning that there would be penalties. The court had heard arguments on the case back in January of this year.
The cases deal with a few seconds of Charlotte Ross’ nude behind on the CBS show NYPD Blue or by expletives spoken by celebs such as U2’s Bono, Cher, and Paris Hilton during live shows.
Although it was a unanimous 8-0 ruling (Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not vote because she had been involved with the case at a lower level), the judgment tells us very little about the court’s true feelings.
All the court did was rule that the FCC can’t throw big fines at broadcasters without warning them in advance. The court did not rule based on First Amendment issues, nor did it indicate that it was likely to tell the FCC to lighten up on regulation. This is the second time the court has heard the case. The first time the court ruled 5-4 in favor of the FCC on procedural grounds.
The supreme court has yet to hear arguments on the Janet Jackson Super Bowl case from 2004. And nobody brought a case on the Nancy Grace Dancing with the Stars wardrobe malfunction from this year.
Video from The New Yorker featuring video from C-SPAN and George Carlin. Lots of bad language and limited nudity. (Yeah, that says C-SPAN to ya, doesn’t it!)