FCC Fires Back at Nets

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The FCC shot back at CBS, Fox, and NBC Tuesday for opposing its request to review four profanity rulings broadcasters took to court.

The FCC pointed out in filings with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that its request is supported by three of four affiliate associations and four of the six parties that sued over the rulings (including ABC, with some qualifiers).

"The stridency of the CBS and NBC oppositions is particularly curious," the FCC told the court, "given that these networks' affiliate associations actively support the remand. These affiliate associations represent vastly more licensees than do the networks,each of whom owns only a limited number of stations.

It also said that CBS, Fox and NBC's request for a stay of profanity enforcement over the 60 days the FCC has asked for to review those decisions would be essentially a "two-month free pass permitting any television or radio licensee in the United States to broadcast profanity at times of day when children are most likely to be in the audience, so long as they could argue that the profanity was not "repetitive."

The FCC says its reconsideration "could moot all or part of the case," which means it is possible it could reverse the decisions, though it also said it could also reverse, say, the ones involving the "s-word" variants, while leaving in place the "f-word" findings.

The FCC said not granting a stay of enforcement would not cause irreparable harm to the networks, again pointing to the affiliate associations with vastly more stations but no similar concerns about potential harms.

The FCC separately again asked the court to throw out CBS' opposition, citing disclosures of confidential information in its court filing. CBS filed an amended opposition without those disclosures, but the FCC said it had not withdrawn the original, and asked the court to strike that opposition.

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