A federal appeals court decided yesterday that the FCC’s recent attempts to keep our ears safe from harmful words are “arbitrary and capricious”.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York ruled that the FCC went too far in issuing a 2006 indecency decision against Fox for separate incidents in 2002 and 2003 when singer Cher and celebrity Nicole Richie, respectively, both uttered the f-word on live television.

Fox appealed the FCC ruling to the 2nd Circuit, saying that the profanities were fleeting and that the FCC’s new rule set a dangerous precedent for clamping down on free speech. Some First Amendment lawyers saw the Fox appeal as a possible test case to challenge the government’s ability to patrol the public airwaves at all.

While the incidents that triggered this case are trivial at best, it highlights the fact that there needs to be some rules for what’s acceptable and what’s not on the public airways.

However, developing rules that will be acceptable to most people in this country will not be easy.

Especially when it comes to the whiny, self-appointed moral gatekeepers who probably think my occasional use of the word crap in this space goes too far.

fcc, censorship, free speech