Supreme Court rules against networks on indecent speech

The commission formally reversed its policy in March 2004 to declare even a single use of an expletive could be illegal.

The changes became known as the “Golden Globes Rule,” for singer Bono’s 2003 acceptance speech at the awards show on NBC, where he uttered the phrase “really, really, f—ing brilliant.”


All quotes  from http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/28/supreme.court.indecent.speech/

This not an example of profound human stupidity. It is even understandable that some want to protect their kids from foul language.

Nevertheless, the “Golden Globe Rule” seems to be going overboard.
This is just an amusing example of exaggerated dogmatic conservativism. It must be quite expensive to have all live television programs delayed a few seconds, so that professional who dedicates his live to beeper-button-pressing can bleep out any indecent word that could possibly be spoken.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said “customs of speech” and context made the Federal Communications Commission’s position unworkable.

“As any golfer who has watched his partner shank a short approach knows, it would be absurd to accept the suggestion that the resultant four-letter word uttered on the golf course describes sex or excrement and is therefore indecent,” he wrote. “But that is the absurdity the FCC has embraced in its new approach to indecency.”

And Stevens wondered why the agency was going after words that he said had a “tenuous relationship” to sex and bodily functions, while at the same time prime-time commercials “frequently ask viewers whether they, too, are battling erectile dysfunction or are having trouble going to the bathroom.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made clear how she viewed the broader free speech questions the high court may be forced to confront in coming years. “There is no way to hide the long shadow the First Amendment casts over what the commission has done,” she wrote.

The Supreme Court first ventured into the broadcast speech debate in 1978, when it ruled as indecent a monologue by comedian George Carlin on society’s taboo surrounding “seven dirty words.” The bit had received some radio airplay. Stevens, 89, was the author of that opinion.

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