By Steven J. J. Weisman
BOSTON — Yesterday (6/21/12) the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision on the FCC’s indecency standards for broadcast radio and television and the decision hardly seems worth the wait.
In a decision that reminded me of a story about the comedian Professor Irwin Corey, who billed himself as the world’s foremost authority, he was asked, “Why do you wear sneakers?” He replied by saying that this actually was two questions. The first question was “Why?” and he went on to a long philosophical discussion of “why.” Then he went on to the second question, “Do you wear sneakers?” and he promptly responded, “Yes.”
In this case the Supreme Court was asked whether or not the FCC’s indecency rules were in violation of the First Amendment. However, rather than answer that question, the court merely determined unanimously, after much discussion, that the standards were applied retroactively and therefore they could not be enforced against ABC and Fox. As for the overriding question of the unconstitutionality of the rules themselves, the Court ruled that it did not even have to answer that question because the application of the FCC’s indecency rule was improperly done in a manner that violated the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment.