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FCC drops indecency charges against two network TV shows

[JURIST] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] has dropped charges [summary] previously filed against ABC's "NYPD Blue" and CBS's "The Early Show," holding Monday that the shows were not indecent based on language content. The FCC also renewed charges against "The 2003 Billboard Music Awards" and "The 2002 Billboard Music Awards." According to the FCC order [PDF text; press release, PDF], the FCC dismissed the charges relating to the "The Early Show," deferring "to CBS's characterization of the program segment as a news interview" and concluding "regardless of whether such language would be actionable in the context of an entertainment program, that the complained-of material is neither actionably indecent nor profane in this context." The FCC upheld its charges against the "Billboard Music Awards" stating that "the use of offensive language by participants…was indecent and profane."

In April, ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox filed appeals [JURIST report] contesting the original FCC indecency rulings against the shows. The networks argued that the indecency findings for "fleeting" or "unintentional" profanities were inappropriate and that the FCC's inconsistent rulings chilled free speech in violation of the First Amendment. In July, CBS filed an additional appeal on the FCC decision to fine it $550,000 [JURIST reports] for an incident in the 2004 Super Bowl broadcast when performer Janet Jackson experienced what was later euphemistically labeled a "wardrobe malfunction" [Wikipedia backgrounder] that briefly exposed one of her breasts. A decision has not yet been made on that appeal. 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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