WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission changed its mind and dismissed charges against two television shows it had deemed indecent but upheld its findings against two others, according to a court filing submitted late Monday night.
In April, Fox Television Stations Inc., CBS Broadcasting Inc. and others sued the FCC and asked the Appeals Court to invalidate its conclusion that all four broadcasts were indecent, saying the action was unconstitutional and contrary to the law.
At issue is when, if ever, broadcasters should be allowed to air foul language. Broadcasters argue that the uttering of "fleeting, isolated and in some cases unintentional" profanities is not enough to render a broadcast indecent.
They also argued that the FCC's enforcement has been inconsistent. The companies also said the stakes have gotten much higher since Congress passed a law increasing fines by a factor of 10.
The case is based on a 76-page omnibus order released by the FCC in March that settled "hundreds of thousands of complaints" regarding broadcast indecency.
In the order, the FCC proposed fines against several shows but did not fine the four that are the subject of the Appeals Court case.
The two shows the FCC still considers indecent were:
• A Dec. 9, 2002, broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards on Fox.
• A Dec. 10, 2003, Billboard awards show.
The agency changed course on two other cases, ruling they were not indecent:
• Several episodes of the ABC police drama NYPD Blue that aired between Jan. 14 and May 6, 2003.
• A Dec. 13, 2004, broadcast of CBS' Early Show.