Four Networks Fight Indecency Ruling

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, along with their affiliates, have filed notices of appeals, protesting what they perceive as the FCC’s aggressive stance of the FCC against indecency. The networks claim that the rules are vague and inconsistently applied.

Shows singled out in the FCC’s rulings last month included the 2002 Billboard Music Awards show on Fox, for language, several 2003 episodes of NYPD Blue on ABC and CBS’s The Early Show in 2004. NBC was not involved in the case, but filed a petition on the other stations’ behalf, as did Hearst-Argyle Television, which runs a network of local stations across the U.S.

In a statement issued by the networks, the indecency ruling by the FCC was called unconstitutional.

"In filing these court appeals we are seeking to overturn the FCC decisions that the broadcast of fleeting, isolated—and in some cases unintentional—words rendered these programs indecent," it said.

Unpredictable live broadcasts were involved in three of the cases, and NYPD Blue was included because the show was aired at 9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain Time zones. In the Eastern and Pacific Time zones, the show was broadcast later and wasn’t included.

The networks claim that the FCC acted arbitrarily and that they weren’t given a clear indication of what was considered objectionable and what wasn’t. They object to "growing government control over what viewers should and shouldn't see on television."