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FCC considering lifting ban on nudity, expletives on broadcast tv

Nudity and expletives normally reserved for cable television would be allowed on broadcast TV under a proposal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

In an announcement that received little attention but could have a major impact on America's families, the FCC April 1 announced it is considering changes to the current broadcast indecency policies that would permit "isolated expletives" and isolated "non-sexual nudity" on broadcast TV, something that currently could draw a fine.

The FCC is asking for public feedback on the proposed policy. The deadline is the end of April.

In its three-page public notice April 1, the FCC said it is seeking public comment on whether the commission should treat "isolated expletives" as it did in a 1987 case -- in which an expletive had to be "deliberate" and "repetitive" to be considered a violation -- or as it did in a 2004 case in which the use of an expletive, even if isolated, could draw a fine.

On nudity, the FCC asked, "Should the Commission treat isolated (non-sexual) nudity the same as or differently than isolated expletives?"

The U.S. Supreme Court considered a major indecency case last year and allowed the current policy to stand, although it did toss out the FCC's penalties against ABC and Fox -- but only because the court said the FCC had not given the networks proper notice of what was and was not allowed. At issue were broadcasts on Fox from 2002 and 2003 in which the "f-word" and "s-word" were said on live television and a scripted ABC broadcast from 2003 that included partial female nudity.

"The Commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent," the court's majority opinion stated.

The networks had wanted the court to overturn the policy, something it did not do.

In its April 1 public notice, the FCC said Genachowski had told the FCC's enforcement bureau to focus its "indecency enforcement resources on egregious cases" involving complaints against broadcast indecency, thus cleaning out a "backlog" of complaints. That could be a preview of what is to come.

The public can comment on the proposal through the FCC's website, (Click on "submit a filing.") The case is GN Docket No. 13-86.

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