In a time when victories are scarce, it is very good to note that the First Amendment won a victory this week.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overruled, and gave a well reasoned reason for overruling, the FCC’s attempt to make the “fleeting” use of the “F-word” in television broadcasts a violation.
“Bono’s exclamation that his victory at the Golden Globes Award was ‘really, really, fucking brilliant’ is a prime example of a nonliteral use of the ‘F-word’ with no sexual connotation,” the court noted, and chided the FCC for pretending that he was referring to sexual intercourse. “This defies any common-sense understanding of these words, which as the public well knows are often used in everyday conversation…”
Although this is a grand victory, there is still room for improvement. If Bono had been referring to sex, instead of referring to the pleasure of winning the award, the FCC still has the power to collect a third of a million dollars from the broadcaster. For some reason, references to sex are not allowed when children may be awake. The reason for that is not clear.
The Court’s decision sent FCC chairman Kevin Martin into a tizzy. “I find it hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that ‘s—‘ and ‘f—‘ are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience. The court even says the commission is ‘divorced from reality.’ It is the New York court, not the commission, that is divorced from reality in concluding that the word ‘f—‘ does not invoke a sexual connotation.”
So apparently the head of the FCC is some kind of doctrinaire. It is fortunate that courts exist to stop people like him. And by the way, if you are wondering where the money they sometimes win goes, it does not go to charity — it goes to the FCC itself.