The high court said Monday it will hear arguments in a case over whether the government can ban "fleeting expletives," one-time uses of familiar but profane words.
The case grew out of decision by the Federal Communications Commission in 2006 that two broadcasts of the "Billboard Music Awards" show were indecent, though the agency levied no fines. Cher uttered one fleeting expletive beginning with "F" and Nicole Richie uttered a variation of the same word and another one beginning with "S."
Fox Broadcasting Co. and others appealed the decision, saying that the agency had changed its enforcement policy without warning and that the new ban was unconstitutional.
A federal appeals court in New York agreed, 2-1, throwing out the ban and sending the case back to the agency, which appealed to the Supreme Court.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin told The Associated Press Monday that he was pleased the justices are stepping in. He said the appeals court had "put the commission in an untenable position" by giving it the responsibility to enforce indecency rules but not the tools to take action.