Patterico's Pontifications


Broadcast Indecency – An Example Of The Debate’s Minefield

Filed under: Law,Public Policy — Justin Levine @ 3:00 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the latest case over FCC broadcast indecency regulations – stemming in part from single swear words that were uttered by Nicole Richie and Cher during the Billboard awards show in different years.

A curious admission from the solicitor general found on pg. 10 in the [PDF] transcript of the oral arguments:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I suppose the most difficult case for you is the “Early News” case where you have just a fleeting expletive, unlike “Saving Private Ryan” and the others. I mean, how do you distinguish the “Early News” case from the ones before us?

GENERAL GARRE: The Commission has determined that news programming would be treated differently, with greater restraint, because of the different values present in that situation.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So the same — if you had a news report about Nicole Richey [sic] and the Cher exhibits, they — they could use the actual language, even though they can’t during the — the awards shows?


There are arguments to be made that the public airwaves should not be a constant free-for-all. But I’m not convinced the news/entertainment distinction has ever been sustainable, let alone in today’s world.

– Justin Levine

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