Is it time for the government to relax its rules on curse words and coarse content over the airwaves?
That question is before the United States Supreme Court. The high court is considering a First Amendment case that pits the Obama administration against the nation's television networks. The case stems from a 2003 episode of ABC's "NYPD Blue" in which a woman's nude buttocks were shown as well as the use of expletives which resulted in fines against broadcasters.
The television industry wants the Supreme Court to overturn a 1978 decision that upheld the Federal Communications Commission's right to regulate content during prime time. The broadcasters point out that 90 percent of American households subscribe to some form of cable television that often airs programming that would not be allowed over broadcast airwaves. The FCC toughened its stance on its rules after the airing of the Billboard Music Awards in which Cher used the "F" word on a live broadcast in 2003 and Nicole Ritchie uttered the "F" word and "S" word a year later.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals declared that the FCC rules were unconstitutionally vague.
The Obama administration says even with the explosion of entertainment options, broadcast programming remains dominant. It also needs to be kept as a "safe haven" of milder programming, the administration said.
Tim Winter of the Parents Television Council, which supports the regulations, said "radio and television broadcasters already have the ability to be as indecent as they want after 10:00 p.m."