F-bombs on C-SPAN? Fleeting Expletives Case Ready for Supreme Court

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F-bombs on C-SPAN? Fleeting Expletives Case Ready for Supreme Court

Sun Nov 02, 2008 @ 10:44AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

SupremecourtJust in time for the election, on Tuesday the Supreme Court will be holding hearings in a case concerning the FCC's policies sanctioning broadcasters for "fleeting expletives."

The oral arguments raise some interesting questions soaked in irony: Will the lawyers arguing the case be allowed to curse? Will C-Span and other broadcasters be allowed to broadcast audio from the hearing? If so, and the decision comes back favorable to the FCC, will these broadcasters be fined heavy money if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg drops the F-bomb on unsuspecting audiences?

Indeed, according to Bradcasting & Cable, C-Span has put in a request to broadcast the hearing on its cable channel and its XM radio station. The public policy channel makes these requests only rarely. No word on how much interest other cable news networks have in the case, especially since there's that other thing happening on Tuesday.

The SCOTUS blog analyzes the legal conundrum facing Chief Justice John Roberts:

According to the website, Roberts hasn't made a decision on C-SPAN's request or even whether he's going "to tell the lawyers, bluntly or subtly, not to use the words at issue."

One involved lawyer is ready curse up a storm.

“Unless the Court tells me not to,” says Carter G. Phillips of Washington’s Sidley Austin, representing the broadcasters, "I would not shy away from using those words. It is hard to argue parts of he case saying ‘F-word’ and ‘S-word.’ "

SCOTUS also tallies the news organizations that will be spelling out "fuck" and George Carlin's other dirty seven. The Associated Press? Undecided. The NY Times? Probably not. LA TImes? No (not even if McCain storms the offices looking for the Khalidi tape). Bloomberg News? Shit, they can't wait.

So interestingly, this case may be decided before it's even heard. We'll update Roberts' decision soon.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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