Supreme Court Declines Appeals Over Ownership Rules, Super Bowl Fine
June 29, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court remains in the news this week, as it announced today it will not review a lower court ruling on the FCC's media cross-ownership rules. The court did not offer a comment or explanation as to why it declined to review the case. This means the current FCC restrictions on newspaper-broadcaster cross-ownership will remain in place, though the Commission is required to review these rules every four years.
The NAB has released a statement on the Court's decision, with NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton saying, "We're disappointed the Supreme Court declined to review rules that limit local broadcasters' ability to compete with our national and multinational pay programming competitors. NAB will continue to advocate for modernizing ownership rules that stem from an era of I Love Lucy."
The Supreme Court also announced today that it will not review a lower court decision that tossed out the $550,000 FCC fine against CBS over the infamous Janet Jackson-Super Bowl halftime incident from 2004. Last November, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld its previous ruling that the FCC's indecency fine against CBS was invalid. The FCC then appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with the decision to deny the appeal, and said in a statement that the FCC's policy on indecent images may be less vague that its rules on language. "As every schoolchild knows, a picture is worth a thousand words, and CBS broadcast this particular image to millions of impressionable children," Roberts wrote, adding that "It is now clear that the brevity of an indecent broadcast -- be it word or image -- cannot immunize it from FCC censure. Any future ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ will not be protected on the ground [that the FCC's policies are unclear]."
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled the FCC does have powers over indecency in broadcasting, while acknowledging its current rules are vague, but also tossed out fines against Fox and ABC.