Shout at the Network
Mötley Crüe is suing NBC for banning the band from its shows after lead singer Vince Neil "used an expletive" on The Tonight Show last New Year's Eve. The group argues that NBC acted under pressure from the FCC's stepped-up campaign against broadcast "indecency," transforming what would otherwise be a private programming decision into a violation of Motley Crue's First Amendment rights. Although the argument is a bit of a stretch, it's more creative than you might expect for what appears to be little more than a publicity stunt. Still, it's not clear NBC actually was worried about the FCC in this instance. The show featuring Neil's naughty word aired late at night, during the "safe harbor" hours when the indecency rules do not apply. You could argue that NBC was nevertheless trying to court favor with the FCC by going beyond its legal duty. But it's just as plausible that the network was worried about offended viewers and advertisers. The absence of government-imposed programming restrictions does not mean that anything goes, and broadcasters have a First Amendment right to decide what does.