April 1 U.S. regulators on Monday launched a
review of policy governing the way it enforces broadcasts of
nudity and profanity on radio and television and asked for
public comment on whether its current approach should be
The Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice
inviting comment on whether it should focus its efforts on
pursuing only the "most egregious" cases in which rules are
broken, or focus on isolated cases of nudity and expletives
uttered on radio and TV shows.
The public notice follows a Supreme Court ruling in June
2012 against a government crackdown some 10 years ago on nudity
"We now seek comment on whether the full Commission should
make changes to its current (egregious cases) broadcast
indecency policies or maintain them as they are," the FCC said
It asked for public input over the next 30 days on whether,
for example, it should treat cases of nudity in the same way as
profanity, and whether "deliberate and repetitive" use of
expletives is necessary to prove indecency.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, the FCC said it had focused
its enforcement on "egregious cases" and had handled a backlog
of more than 1 million complaints since June 2012.
The Supreme Court said that the FCC rules were vague and
that it had not given fair notice of a tougher stance that
resulted in three-high profile incidents that resulted in
complaints and fines against U.S. networks.
These included the broadcast of a glimpse of singer Janet
Jackson's breast at a 2004 Super Bowl half time show.
Under a 2001 FCC policy that was amended in 2004, network
and local radio and television channels can be fined up to
$325,000 for a single fleeting expletive blurted out on a live
show or for brief glimpses of nudity. Cable and satellite
operators are not subject to such rules.
The FCC said that it would continue to enforce its current
polices as usual during the comment period and that Monday's
public notice did not alter any of its policies.
The TV industry has argued that policies have been
inconsistent over the years, allowing the television broadcast
of movie "Schindler's List" that includes nudity, but leading to
fines against News Corp's Fox television for expletives
uttered by singer Cher and reality TV star Nicole Richie on
awards shows in 2002 and 2003.
The most publicized case in recent years was the so-called
"wardrobe malfunction" that allowed part of Jackson's breast to
be briefly exposed during a half-time show for the 2004 Super
Bowl football championship that drew half a million complaints.
CBS was fined $550,000 but the fine was thrown out by the
Supreme Court in a separate judgment in late June 2012.