Don't Sweat the Slips

Score one for Bono. A federal court last month ruled that "fleeting expletives" should not be judged as indecent speech. This ruling includes comments made by the Irish rocker and humanitarian during NBC's broadcast of the Golden Globes in 2003, in which he blurted out: "fucking brilliant."

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York tossed out the FCC's profanity rulings against Fox, NBC and others, on the grounds they were "arbitrary" and "capricious." The decision also covered F-bombs from Cher and Nicole Richie and expletives uttered on ABC's "NYPD Blue" and CBS' "Survivor," among others.

But the narrow opinion did not address the larger question of the FCC's indecency-enforcement plans, and the court sent the decision back to the commission for justification. On the related issue of TV violence, the agency recently issued a long-awaited report recommending that Congress limit "excessively violent" programming much as it limits indecency. Should Congress pass any legislation curbing TV violence, it's likely to wind up in court as well, given the difficulty of defining what qualifies. It won't be a fleeting fight.
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