Washington (CNN) -- Broadcast television networks won an important constitutional fight Thursday when the Supreme Court said government regulators imposed unfair punishment for isolated profanity and sexual content during evening "prime time" hours.
In an 8-0 vote, justices concluded the Federal Communications Commission cannot enforce its current policies against "fleeting" expletives and nudity on over-the-air programs, both live and scripted. The agency had levied hefty fines on all four major broadcasters beginning nearly a decade ago.
The court's ruling was narrow, as the justices declined to address whether the regulations violate free-speech protections guaranteed under the First Amendment. But it does establish important guidelines the government must follow when monitoring explicit content on the airwaves.
"The commission failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.