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Is it Against the Law for Terrestrial Radio to Say “Shithole” on the Air in Covering Trump Story?

| January 12, 2018

By Steven J.J. Weisman
TALKERS
Legal Editor

BOSTON – It is hard to give a definitive answer to the above question which is part of the problem because the indecency standards for broadcast radio are not particularly clear.  In 2012 when the Supreme Court ruled on this matter in response to enforcement decisions against Fox and ABC, the Supreme Court, unlike the lower appeals court did not rule that the present indecency rules violated the First Amendment.  Instead, by a vote of 8-0 they ruled in favor of Fox and ABC thus overturning the FCC’s decisions and fines against the networks on the grounds that the standards were too vague and there was not sufficient notice when the FCC changed its interpretation of its rules.    Specifically, the court indicated that, “This opinion leaves the Commission free to modify its current indecency policy in light of its determination of the public interest and applicable legal requirements.”  The FCC has not made any substantial changes to its indecency rules and has kept them in force, largely without any controversy for the last six years.

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