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Media Institute Files Supreme Court Brief in Fox Indecency Case

FOR RELEASE: August 8, 2008

Contact: Richard T. Kaplar
The Media Institute


Arlington, Va., Aug. 8, 2008 – In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, The Media Institute has joined the Thomas Jefferson Center in challenging the Federal Communication Commission's regulation of "indecent speech" to include banning even "fleeting expletives" from the airwaves.

The case involves an FCC order finding that "Billboard Music Awards" programs broadcast by Fox stations were in violation of the Commission's indecency and profanity regulations because of two unscripted expletives uttered by a celebrity presenter and one uttered by an award winner. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had ruled against the FCC, finding it had abruptly changed its policy in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to affirm the judgment of the Second Circuit for three reasons:

  1. The expression at issue is fully protected by the First Amendment, since it falls under none of the exceptions the Court has recognized and consistently applied in free-speech and free-press cases.

  2. The standards the Commission applied in this case far exceed the very limited scope of the Supreme Court's tolerance for regulating speech, even in the special circumstances of licensed broadcasting.

  3. All valid needs and interests of our society can be effectively protected by standards that comport with the rigorous safeguards of the First Amendment.

Both groups filing this brief have challenged the FCC before over its regulation of broadcast content. Information about The Media Institute is at Information about The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression is at