Supreme Court upholds FCC fines for 'fleeting expletives'

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a 5-4 decision that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can fine "fleeting expletives" -- single curse words that escape censors during broadcasts.

The court upheld FCC fines levied against Fox for fleeting expletives used by celebrity Nicole Richie during a 2003 broadcast of the Billboard Music Awards, overruling an appeals court on the issue.

The court's five reliable conservative justices voted to uphold the policy, while the court's four liberal justices found themselves in the minority. Justice Antonin Scalia authored the opinion.

"The [FCC] could reasonably conclude that the pervasiveness of foul language,and the coarsening of public entertainment in other media such as cable, justify more stringent regulation of broadcast programs so as to give conscientious parents a relatively safe haven for their children," Scalia wrote in the opinion.

The policy could still face a challenge, however: Scalia was careful to note that the court's decision did not touch upon the First Amendment implications for the policy, but rather, the appeals court's finding that the FCC policy was "arbitrary and capricious."