Critics say U.S. TV obscenity ruling out of touch

Tue Apr 28, 2009 6:46pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Barbra Streisand made headlines when she said it three years ago, Vice President Dick Cheney caused a stir in 2004 when he uttered the word to a senator but TV mobster Tony Soprano used it constantly.

Yet even a fleeting use of the "F-word" or the "S-word" on U.S. network television remains subject to fines under a Supreme Court split ruling on Tuesday that parent groups hailed but critics said was out of touch with ordinary Americans.

"What's the point of continuing to apply a censorship regime to one of the oldest mediums -- broadcast TV and radio -- when kids are flocking to unregulated mediums in large numbers?," said Adam Thierer, a senior fellow with the Progress and Freedom Foundation think-tank on the digital revolution.

In its first ruling on broadcast indecency standards in more than 30 years, the Supreme Court upheld a U.S. government policy that subjects television network broadcasters to fines if they air a single expletive on the airwaves before 10 p.m.

The Fox television network said it would pursue the case in the lower courts on constitutional free speech grounds.

Parent groups welcomed the decision. The conservative Parents Television Council said it was "an incredible victory for families" that ensured the well-being of children.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which represented 18 congressional representatives in the case, said the Supreme Court had rightly upheld the FCC's authority "to protect America's families, especially children."

OUT OF TOUCH?   Continued...

<p>Entertainer Barbara Streisand walks to the podium as her husband James Brolin (L) watches at an anti-impeachment rally sponsored by The People for the American Way at the Federal Building December 16 in Westwood in this file photo from 1998. SSM/ME</p>