FCC

Today in Broadcast Regulation

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Good news on the free speech front:

It's highly likely that you've long since forgotten about a 2003 episode of NYPD Blue that featured a naked woman–in much the same way that it's impossible to determine which eroded rock first led to a civilization-swallowing sinkhole–but the FCC has a long memory for such things, which is why it's been tied up in court pretty much since Dennis Franz was still a thing, trying to enforce a $27,500 penalty it levied against ABC and each of the 45 affiliate sessions who broadcast it.

But today the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan threw out the collective $1.2 million fine, saying it falls under the same decision it reached last July regarding the FCC's fine for "fleeting expletives." According to the ruling, the court sees no distinction between Bono uttering "fucking brilliant" at an awards show and a lingering shot of actress Charlotte Ross' ass, and that the FCC's process of deciding in which contexts such occurrences are permissible is still "unconstitutionally vague." As such, the penalty has been nullified, and once again the FCC is left to try appealing the decision and defend its right to set decency standards.

In another welcome development, President Obama today signed the Local Community Radio Act, thus expanding the number of stations permitted to broadcast on the FM band. It took a drawn-out fight to pass this one, and the bill's supporters had to make some concessions along the way; this analysis from the Prometheus Radio Project is a good summary of what the new law does and does not do.