From Scott Holleran: CBS Fights FCC and Wins in Philadelphia

In a victory this Wednesday for freedom of speech, an appeals court rejected the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to punish CBS for airing an expressive portion of Janet Jackson’s broadcast performance during the 2004 Super Bowl. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled by 2-1 (CBS Corp et al v. FCC, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 06-3575) that, by imposing a penalty, the FCC “arbitrarily and capriciously” departed from prior policy that exempted “fleeting” indecency from sanctions and that the FCC “improperly imposed a penalty on CBS for violating a previously unannounced policy”. The FCC released an antagonistic and harsh statement that says the federal agency is disappointed by the decision and intends to use “all the authority at its disposal” to force broadcasters to serve the public interest when they use the so-called public airwaves. A CBS spokeswoman said the network hopes the FCC will “return to the policy of restrained indecency enforcement it followed for decades.” The FCC fined CBS $27,500 for each of the 20 stations it owned when part of Janet Jackson’s anatomy was accidentally and briefly exposed during the halftime performance.

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