LOS ANGELES – Four TV broadcast networks and their affiliates have filed court challenges to a March 15 Federal Communications Commission ruling that found several programs “indecent” because of language.
ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, along with their network affiliate associations and the Hearst-Argyle Television group of stations, filed notices of appeal in various federal courts, including in Washington, D.C., and New York. Some were filed late Thursday and the rest Friday morning.
The move represents a protest against the aggressive enforcement of federal indecency rules that broadcasters have complained are vague and inconsistently applied. Millions of dollars in fines have been levied based on those rules.
The appeals challenge the FCC’s finding that profane language was used on the CBS program “The Early Show” in 2004, incidents involving Cher and Nicole Richie on the “Billboard Music Awards” shows broadcast by Fox in 2002 and 2003 and various episodes of the ABC show “NYPD Blue” that aired in 2003.
The FCC did not issue fines in those cases because the incidents occurred before a 2004 ruling that virtually any use of certain expletives would be considered profane and indecent.
While none of the cases involved NBC, the network filed a petition to intervene on behalf of the other networks and stations.
Separately, CBS asked the FCC to reconsider a proposed record fine of $3.6 million against dozens of CBS stations and affiliates for a 2004 episode of “Without a Trace” as well as a proposed $550,000 fine for the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl. Friday was the deadline for the requests.
The networks and affiliate groups, representing more than 800 individual stations, issued a rare joint statement Friday calling the FCC ruling “unconstitutional and inconsistent with two decades of previous FCC decisions.”