Decency Enforcement Center for Television Website

Protecting America's Families

Accomplishments - including our  two wins in the U.S. Supreme Court for all Americans!

Decent TV has filed amicus briefs in four federal court cases, including two in  the U.S. Supreme Court - the most recent just filed in September, 2011!  More information on each case follows. Decent TV has also provided much legal consulting  to the Federal Communications Commission, and a number of pro-decency and family organizations with which we partner on broadcast decency issues. Decent TV has also filed public comments with the FCC in a Congressionally mandated proceeding to investigate improved technology for parents to filter out indecent or offensive material in the usage of various media, including TV. 

Court Cases

Fox and ABC  v FCC, U.S. Supreme Court - We win again!  View our brief  here:2nd U.S. Supreme Court FINAL.pdf and/or the Supreme Court's decision on our Documents page!

Arguments were heard by the Supreme Court on January 10, 2012. The U.S. Solicitor General made two arguments that Decent TV originated and shared with the government.  ON JUNE 21, 2012, THE SUPREME COURT, CONSISTENT WITH DECENT TV'S ARGUMENTS, DECLINED TO EVEN ADDRESS THE TV NETWORKS' REQUESTS TO FIND THE CURRENT BROADCAST INDECENCY LAWS AND FCC POLICIES UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!! The Court, while it did strike down the FCC's fine of an episode of ABC TV's NYPD Blue program, only did so on narrow procedural grounds, citing unfair notice of FCC rule changes.  This was an issue that Decent TV did not argue.   

The case was originally appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by Fox Television and was decided by that court in June, 2007. Decent TV's founder, Thomas North, had individually filed an amicus brief before Decent TV was formed. The Court agreed with his position, by not addressing the TV networks' challenge to the constitutionality of the federal statute restricting their broadcasting indecency. However, the Court did reverse the indecency findings of the FCC on administrative law grounds that were  not within the role or expertise of Decent TV to argue. The FCC appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which accepted the case.

 In June, 2008, Decent TV filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court  in support of the constitutionality of the decency laws. Our brief caused Fox TV to tell  the Supreme Court in oral arguments that it was no longer asking the Court to revisit the Pacifica case or the constitutional issue. 

 In  April, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision, agreeing with the arguments in Decent TV's brief across the board - WE WON!!!. The Supreme Court did not address or disturb the constitutionality of the existing broadcast law, leaving it in place. The Supreme Court also agreed with us that the actions of the FCC complied with administrative law in finding the subject broadcasts to be indecent. The Supreme Court did also agree with the FCC to remand the case to the Court of Appeals to consider the constitutional arguments.

 The Second Circuit then found the current FCC policy to be unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear those issues.

In the meantime, the FCC had  fined ABC TVaffiliates, and   ABC had appealed to the Court of Appeals, Second Circuit also, arguing for all laws against broadcast indecency to be struck down as unconstitutional.  Decent TV filed an amicus brief in November, 2008. That court found FCC policy to also be unconstitutionally vague, and the U.S. Supreme Court consolidated the Fox and ABC cases together.

 In September, 2011, we filed our latest Supreme Court brief, supporting the constitutional limits on broadcast indecency. The networks' briefs were then filed in November, illegally requesting the Supreme Court to overrule its 1978 decision that regulation of broadcast indecency is constitutional.  This is the case that was argued in January and just decided in June, 2012 (see above). 

US v Fox, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - We win!

In this case, the FCC fined Fox TV affiliates. The finding was not appealed, but Fox and affiliates blatantly refused to pay the fines by the legal deadline. Therefore, the US government was forced to commence collection proceedings in the District Court. Fox claimed  the fines and FCC indecency findings were unconstitutional, despite the law saying otherwise. Decent TV, with the gracious assistance of one of the attorneys for Parents Television Council as co-counsel, filed an amicus brief in the case, the only entity to file a brief other than the government and Fox TV.  Our brief cited critical legal authority that the government did not, setting forth that the Supreme Court and other higher courts have already found that the laws are not vague and ARE constitutional. In July, 2011, the District Court agreed with us and denied Fox TV's Motion to Dismiss!  Although the government ulimately dismissed this collection case for unknown reasons, they did so against the backdrop that the broadcast indecency laws are still constitutional, thanks to the efforts of Decent TV!

CBS v FCC, U.S. Supreme Court

This is the infamous Janet Jackson Super Bowl case in which Decent TV's founder, Thomas North, individually filed an amicus brief prior to forming Decent TV. This was appealed by CBS to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Phildelphia), and the legal issues are similar to Fox v FCC above, except the case involves nudity rather than language. Decent TV provided financing for the filing of a supplemental brief bolstering the constitutionality of the broadcast decency laws.  The U.S. Supreme Court on June 29, 2012, denied an FCC  petition "for writ of certiorari", to take up the case. This leaves in place the Third Circuit ruling that the FCC, in fining CBS affiliates, applied a rule that it did not adopt until after the Super Bowl broadcast, striking those fines.  Decent TV did not take a position on these administrative law issues. However, in denying certiorari, the Court did state that the networks are now, for the future, on full and fair notice that fleeting expletives and nudity can be found indecent by the FCC, and the Third Circuit's ruling cannot be applied to future broadcasts. We believe this to be a critical legal ruling for decency!!