WASHINGTON - The US Supreme Court Tuesday ruled the government has the right to fine broadcasters for profanity on television.
But the 5-4 decision left open whether a ban on expletives by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) constitutes a violation of free speech, likely sending the case back down to a lower court.
US television networks FOX, ABC, CBS and NBC had challenged whether the government had the jurisdiction to hand down fines of up to $325,000 for ‘fleeting expletives’ on live television broadcasts.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the FCC, but Justice Antonin Scalia made clear that the court was only ruling on whether the government’s ban was ‘arbitrary and capricious’.
It left open the wider issue of whether the ban should be struck down because of free-speech guarantees in the US constitution. The Supreme Court said it was up to a lower court to address that larger question first.