High court weighs limits of broadcast indecency

Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television
As the rest of the country focused on the presidential election November 4, the Supreme Court danced around the use of dirty words, opting for f-word and s-word as euphemisms for expletives in a chamber that twice erupted in laughter.

The justices showed little sign of reaching consensus during the oral arguments in Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television, which centered on “fleeting uses” of profanity on live television during daytime hours when children are likely to be watching.

Much of the morning’s argument focused on the literal and nonliteral meanings of the expletives in question, as well as the use of a word as a throwaway epithet as opposed to a description of sexual activity.

“The reason these words shock is because of their association with a literal meaning,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.


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