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Major TV networks appeal FCC indecency rulings

[JURIST] Some of US television's most prominent networks and their affiliates filed notices of appeal in federal district courts across the nation late Thursday and early Friday in response to a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] ruling that declared several of their programs "indecent" based on language content. ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and affiliate groups representing more than 800 individual stations, issued a joint statement Friday seeking to overturn the FCC decisions that the broadcast of isolated instances of profane language caused several programs to be deemed indecent.

The appeals challenge refers to the FCC's finding [summary] that CBS's Early Show used profane language once, two similar incidents on Fox's Billboard Music Awards and multiple episodes of ABC's NYPD Blue with profane language. The FCC did not issue fines in any of these cases because they all occurred prior to a 2004 ruling that essentially prohibited the use of expletives considered profane and indecent. Broadcasters have grown increasingly frustrated with the massive fines and the appeals represent a protest against the what they see as unclear and inconsistently applied rules. The FCC in March proposed [JURIST report] a record $3.6 million fine against CBS and its affiliates for indecency violations [FCC materials] on its primetime show Without A Trace, and also upheld a $550,000 fine against 20 CBS stations [JURIST report] for indecent material during its 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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