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Court Limits Indecency In Broadcasting

Sat., July 1, 1995

A federal appeals court narrowed the hours during which broadcasters can send out sexually explicit movies, talk shows and other “indecent” material Friday. Viewers won’t notice any difference, the TV networks said, because the shows on now aren’t indecent.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia pushes the permissible starting time for programming deemed indecent back two hours - to 10 p.m. from 8 p.m. The period ends at 6 a.m. each day.

But TV stations and the major broadcast networks don’t expect to make any changes in their program lineups, representatives said.

A main reason: Not one of the shows - from daytime soaps and talk shows to “Married with Children” and “ER” that currently air on broadcast television has been ruled indecent by the Federal Communications Commission.

All of the FCC’s recent actions against indecent broadcasts have involved radio in general and shock jock Howard Stern in particular. There hasn’t been an action against television in years.

Viewers or listeners who believe a broadcast is indecent can file a complaint to the FCC, which determines that question based on its longstanding definition.

That legal definition, not changed by the court’s ruling, says indecent material is that which describes in terms patently offensive, as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs.

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