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Administration Taking Darn Fleeting Expletives Case to the Supreme Court

The Bush Administration is cursing a June appeals court ruling shooting down FCC action against fleeting expletives, and the government is taking the case back to the only court left—the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Second Court of Appeals found in June that the FCC’s treatment of celebrity potty-mouths Cher and Nicole Richie on Fox Television’s airing of the Billboard Music Awards five years ago was arbitrary and capricious. The FCC defied a common-sense understanding of the everyday use of the words, the court said.

This week, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he was pleased with the decision from the U.S. Solicitor’s Office to pursue the case.

“I continue to support the commission’s efforts to protect families from indecent language on television and radio when children are likely to be in the audience,” Martin said in a statement. Without restrictions, “Holly wood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want.”

The Supreme Court only takes a small percentage of the numerous cases brought to it, but it tends to review high-profile cases or those with vague law needing clarity. If the court takes the case, it could bring the first major indecency ruling in some 30 years.

Broadcasters have argued that stiff fines against fleeting indecency could cripple live news, sports and event coverage.