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Cable Technology Feature Article

September 16, 2011

ACLJ Files Friend-of-the-Court Brief

By Rahul Arora, TMCnet Contributor

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) announced that it has recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, in order to defend the ability of government authorities to outlaw public indecency, whether in person or on broadcast TV. With the filing of the brief, the ability of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) to prohibit broadcast indecency on TV is at stake in the case of FCC v. Fox TV.

Fox, ABC, CBS, and NBC have challenged FCC’s enforcement of a rule forbidding obscene language or so-called "fleeting expletives" during hours when children are normally part of the audience. A federal appeals court in New York City ruled in July of 2010 that the FCC's policy on foul language was unconstitutionally vague and would risk chilling protected speech. The FCC then asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. The Court granted the petition at the end of June and the parties are now submitting written arguments to the Court.

"Televisions are found in almost every home," said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow. "It may be that TV stations would prefer to cross the lines of decency in a misguided effort to boost ratings and bolster their profits. But to do so in prime time means sacrificing the protection of children - and adults - from gratuitous assaults on their sensibilities. The First Amendment right to free speech does not include indecent exposure in public settings like this."

"Just as a state could prohibit someone from strutting around naked in public," the ACLJ brief contends, "a state may forbid companies from broadcasting into people's homes programs depicting someone strutting around naked."

"The Supreme Court will be focusing on obscene language, not nudity, in this case," said Jay Sekulow. "The purpose of our brief is to remind the Court that there is another whole area of indecency - indecent exposure - that the Court needs to keep in mind. It would be a terrible thing if the Court, while thinking about an occasional expletive dropping from the lips of a celebrity, inadvertently rendered a decision that undermined the important existing protections of children against public indecency, whether on the streets or on TV."

The Supreme Court will likely hear oral arguments in the case in the winter and issue a decision sometime in the spring of 2012.

Rahul Arora is a TMCnet contributor. He has worked as an editor and freelance writer for several reputed organizations in India. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jamie Epstein