FCC appeals "fleeting expletives" ruling

WASHINGTON Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:47pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday asked an appeals court to reconsider its ruling striking down the agency's indecency policy on "fleeting expletives" heard on broadcasts.

The FCC's request to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York came after a three-judge panel on July 13 called the policy unconstitutionally vague and said it could chill otherwise acceptable speech.

News Corp's Fox Television, CBS Corp's CBS Broadcasting and others had challenged a 2004 FCC ruling that on-air expletives that were not bleeped out were indecent and their use could be penalized.

The case arose after Bono, the lead singer for the rock band U2, used an expletive often called the "F-word" during a live broadcast of the 2003 Golden Globe Awards.

In a court filing, FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick said the three-judge panel's ruling against the FCC "threatens to have a wide-ranging adverse impact on the FCC's ability to enforce federal statutory restrictions on the broadcast of indecent material."

The agency, which regulates radio, television, wire, satellite and cable communications, requested that the case be reheard, or that the entire Second Circuit take up the matter.

In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the FCC had authority to regulate profanity on the nation's airwaves, but declined to decide whether the indecency policy violated the free speech guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The case is Fox Television v FCC, U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 06-1760, 06-2750 and 06-5358.

(Reporting by John Poirier; editing by John Wallace)

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