Supreme Court Ruling On Profanity Could Impact Traditional TV

Maybe all the concern about “brand safety” shouldn’t be levied on digital media platforms -- especially when it comes to advertising dollars on traditional TV platforms.

Think about growing profanity in places you may not have thought. Imagine a future where a “curse” word -- here or there -- might now be uttered on broadcast TV networks and stations programming.

The Supreme Court is considering a case against the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, which refused to grant trademark protection to a brand name of a clothing line called, FUCT. (Marketers will do anything for attention, won’t they?)

For many, this amounts to a violation of the First Amendment. Reports suggest attorneys and justices are expected to mind their language during arguments. But some stuff will be spilled. 



Back in the 1970s, comedian George Carlin once listed seven things you couldn't ever say on television, the seven infamous words.

In 1978, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an FCC decision about Carlin. The agency determined that an afternoon broadcast on a Pacifica-affiliated radio station of Carlin's monologue would be indecent and potentially sanctionable.

Now, cable networks -- which aren’t broadcast networks -- have always had the right to say such words. But many don’t -- especially ad-supported cable TV networks that want to align themselves with big brand advertisers buying up broadcast networks.

(Mind you, some of those words do slip into those TV programs from time to time.)

Of course, HBO and Showtime are a different matter. Those ad-free premium cable networks have no such worries; they can do what they want.

Recently, the high court struck down a case on the registration ban on disparaging trademarks. 

Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled an Asian-American band calling itself "The Slants" could not be denied trademark protection. While the trademark office had turned the band down, because it deemed the name racially "disparaging," the court said the denial amounted to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

So there is a good chance the court will follow up for FUCT and the brand will get registered.

From all this, some feel the Supreme Court -- in theory -- could be moving to a broader view, that the court in future not “exclude such vulgar material from other limited public forums,” according to a brief filed by the solicitor general.

What would this mean? Some select effiing words coming to your favorite broadcast TV network or TV station? (Insert your favorite profanity here). Yep.

3 comments about "Supreme Court Ruling On Profanity Could Impact Traditional TV".
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  1. Dave Adams from Spottraffic, April 18, 2019 at 10:39 a.m.

    Please....When will we STOP distinquishing between broadcast and cable.  The truth is, there is no difference in the eyes of the viewing audience.  Nobody under the age of 60 even undersatnds what that means.  All they know is, they turn on the TV and pick a channel.  The idea that the Big 4 (or 5), along with local broadcast stations should be unfairly held to a different standard is truly ludicris and is, in fact, what is killing broadcast TV.  When will we acknowledge that Cable broadcasters have a government santioned competitive advantage over the very people (broadcast TV) that created the entire industry.  The unregulated cable industry would not exist without broadcast TV.  Frankly, until the broadcast industry stands up for itself and demands a level playing field, Broadcast TV, as we know it, will continue to slide down the "slippery slope" into obscurity.  Either regulate cable or DE-regulate broadcast.  

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 18, 2019 at 1:23 p.m.

    There was always worry if children heard curse words and saw naked people, they would put out their own naked pictures and curse like sailors to other people in public. 

  3. Bill Shane from Eastlan Ratings replied, April 22, 2019 at 5:18 p.m.

    F**k no!  Now pardon me while I go take a nude selfie!

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