Now what? A federal court has said that the FCC did not justify its decision that occasional swearing on TV must be stopped for the sake of the children..
Beyond that, the court said the FCC was essentially clueless when it came to its reasoning. "Divorced from reality," I believe was the term, and only one of the sharp rebukes from a court that seemed to feel the way a lof of other people did about the commission's attempts to reduce TV to the level of the sandbox.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin shot back that the court was divorced from reality, then turned the decision, as he has so other issues, into a call for cable a la carte.
The "now what" on the agenda of Senator Daniel Inouye and the Parents Television Council, which was also dealt a blow by the decision, is appealing it to the Supreme Court.
The commission could also appeal the decision to the full court since the decision was rendered by a three-judge panel. More likely, I think, will be for the FCC to spend some time trying to figure out how to come up with a defense of the new policy, as much time as it needs since it is an open-ended process.
The FCC has a lot on its plate right now with considering mergers of XM/Sirius, the Liberty/DirecTV deal, and the 700 mHz auction.
The court said the FCC was unlikely to succeed in defending the policy at all, but still gave it the chance in a ruling that was a more narrow victory than it would appear, since some of the best language taking aim at the policy's constitutionality came after the court said it was not deciding on the constitutional questions, but only on whether the commission had satisfied the law that saws agencies rulings must not be arbitrary and capricious.
But even though most of its rebuke was in the margins of the decision, the court gave the Third Circuit, which is hearing the Janet Jackson case in September, something to ponder. The FCC should do some pondering too.
By John Eggerton