Congratulations to Fox Broadcasting for winning a major skirmish in Hollywood's ongoing decency/indecency battle with the FCC! Now First Amendment rights crusaders like Cher and Nicole Richie can say the F-word on TV in prime time!
A New York appeals court said Monday that the FCC's standing rule against "fleeting expletives" on TV doesn't make legal sense and might be unconstitutional. Fox was in hot water because Cher and Nicole Richie both spiced up their comments during the Billboard Music Awards with some naughty words. (U2's Bono later let loose with the F-bomb on a 2004 NBC Broadcast.)
The New York appeals court even said the FCC was acting "arbitrary and capricious" by saying Fox and other networks can't air fleeting expletives. That's about the worst thing you can say about a regulatory agency whose authority over decency issues is questionable to begin with. And believe me, FCC chairman Kevin Martin is p*ssed!
"If ever there was an appropriate time for Commission action, this was it," Martin says in a statement Tuesday. "If we can’t restrict the use of the words 'fuck' and 'shit' during prime time, Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want." Pretty salty talk for the normally-mild-mannered Martin.
Fox needs to make hay while the sun shines here. The network should make its court victory the basis of a whole new branding campaign. Here's my suggestion for the network's new tagline: "Fox: Now with Fleeting Expletives!"
But I'm still confused. As it now stands, saying the F-word and the S-word on TV during prime time is OK, as long as its done in a "fleeting" manner. Well, define "fleeting." Oh yeah, I know: "I could never succeed in intelligibly [defining obscenity], but I know it when I see it." Thanks for nothin' Justice Stewart.
Thankfully we're not flying completely blind. Cher and Richie provide instructive examples of how to toss off juicy four-letter words in a "fleeting" manner. Observe.
Here's Cher talking about career ups and downs at the 2003 Billboard Music Awards:
"I’ve also had critics for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. Right. So fuck ‘em. I still have a job and they don’t."
Here's Richie at the 2003 Music Awards talking about her hit TV show "The Simple Life":
"Why do they even call it 'The Simple Life?' Have you ever tried to get cow shit out of a Prada purse? It's not so fucking simple."
Instead of crying to the Supreme Court (as it certainly will), maybe the FCC should really reverse its TV obscenity policy, but just for Fox. The commission should require each lame Fox sit com and reality show to use at least 30 "fleeting" obscenities during each show. For Fox, which has made a business of pushing decency standards, there'd be no more envelope to push.
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