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Federal appeals court hears challenge to FCC indecency standards

[JURIST] Judges on a US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] panel questioned how the Federal Communications Commission [official website] enforces indecency standards [FCC materials] during oral arguments Wednesday in a challenge brought by the Fox television network. The FCC ruled that Fox violated indecency standards [FCC order] when two unscripted expletives were aired during the 2002 and 2003 Billboard Music Awards. The FCC did not impose a fine [DWT bulletin] for the violations because they predated a change in FCC precedent allowing the agency to levy fines for isolated incidents.

Fox appealed the FCC ruling, arguing that the FCC standards are arbitrary. The federal appeals court questioned why certain words are considered indecent in the context of an awards show but wouldn't be indecent in other contexts, such as a news program. The FCC lawyer told the court that context plays a role in determining indecency and noted that if the offensive language was used in the news context, it would not likely be used to "pander, titillate, or for shock value." Reuters has more.

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