The Supreme Court's about to hear a case that will determine whether or not network TV and broadcast radio can finally be freed from the shackles of decency requirements. Thanks in part to expletives uttered by the likes of Cher and Nicole Richie, networks may soon be held to the more lax standards of their cable brethren. Who knew that The Simple Life had such noble intentions for the First Amendment?
Bloomberg reports that on January 10, the Justices will consider whether or not the Federal Communications Commission violates the Constitution when it imposes fines on network TV stations for indecency. Fines in dispute include those levied against the network that aired the Simple Life episode wherein Nicole Richie asked viewers if they'd ever tried to "get cow shit out of a Prada purse." She then added, "It's not so fucking simple." Another network was fined for showing a shot of a woman's butt on NYPD Blue.
The Obama administration has spoken out against the relaxation of standards, saying that TV needs to be a safe place for families to sit around together and not talk. Those in favor of the relaxed standards say that the FCC's enforcement of decency laws is uneven, inconsistent, and unfair, especially considering the fact that most American households have cable, anyway, so Protecting the Children from swearing on CBS won't do any good when they're a click away from bloody True Blood vampire sex. Analysts and Supreme Court nerds think that the Justices will side against the FCC given their history of supporting free speech, even by corporations.
If the Supreme Court sides against the FCC, this will be the biggest change in standards for broadcast TV since the end of the Fairness Doctrine, which until 1987 required TV stations to present both sides of controversial issues. Ironically, the lifting of The Fairness Doctrine has allowed stations like Fox News to become so very Republicanly Fair and so Tea Partily Balanced today.
On a more immediate level, this means that America's network TV-viewing audience better get ready for some fucking swearing. And it's sort of thanks to America's least irritating celebutante.