In a tight 5-4 ruling that was regarded as a significant setback for broadcast networks and stations, the U.S. Supreme Court today (Tuesday) upheld the FCC's authority to penalize broadcasters for airing any four-letter word before 10:00 p.m. The court thereby overturned a lower-court ruling that the commission didn't follow proper procedures in implementing the rule barring "fleeting expletives." The FCC rule had been challenged by Fox Television Stations and was supported by all the other television networks. A related case, involving the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl, is also pending before the court. Analysts pointed out that the court limited its decision to whether the FCC had the right to punish TV stations for airing indecent language, not on the broader question of whether its doing so violated the First Amendment. It left that matter to the lower courts. (The majority opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, referred only to the "F-word" and the "S-word.") "It is conceivable that the Commission's orders may cause some broadcasters to avoid certain language that is beyond the Commission's reach under the Constitution," Justice Scalia wrote. "Whether that is so, and, if so, whether it is unconstitutional, will be determined soon enough, perhaps in this very case. ... We see no reason to abandon our usual procedures in a rush to judgment without a lower court opinion."


Jay Leno returned to NBC's Tonightshow Monday without a hint about the illness that caused him to cancel a show last week. He said that he came down with a fever after driving to the studio in one of his open-air Model T Fords. "Here at NBC we have an ODN, overly dramatic nurse," who insisted that he check himself in at nearby St. Joseph's Hospital. Neither he nor NBC described what might have caused his illness, although Leno, in an obvious reference to the swine flu, remarked in his monologue, "I ate a raw pig a friend brought back from Mexico. ... It was delicious." At another point in his monologue, he joked, "You see some pretty scary things in the hospital -- doctors in the next room were trying to revive NBC's primetime schedule."


Fox Broadcasting has refused a request from the White House to provide an hour in primetime on Wednesday for a news conference in which President Obama plans to discuss his first 100 days in office. Instead, the network, whose sibling cable channel's commentators are some of Obama's fiercest critics, plans to air an episode of its drama Lie to Me, whose title will almost certainly add to the flap over the network's decision. The three other major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, said they will carry the press conference -- as will Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.


Once again, ABC's Dancing With the Stars dominated Monday night as a 90-minute episode averaged 19.09 million viewers, peaking in the final half hour at 9:00 p.m. with 20.41 million. Viewers quickly exited the network at 9:30 p.m., however, as Surviving Suburbia followed with fewer than half the numbers for Dancing-- 9.91 million. CBS also posted strong numbers with its comedy block giving Dancingsome intense competition. Two and a Half Menwas able to attract 14.09 million viewers against Dancing and Rules of Engagementcame out on top at 9:30 p.m. with 11.29 million. CSI: Miamiremained the No. 1 show on Monday at 10:00, drawing 11.98 million.


Jeff Bercovici, the media columnist for Condé Nast's Portfoliomagazine, noted Monday that for two years he had been "covering the media industry's bad news" on his blog and now had to report news that hit close to home: "Portfoliois closing," he wrote. "Our editor in chief, Joanne Lipman, just broke the news to staff, saying the decision had been made 'because of financial reasons at Advance,' Condé Nast's parent company. 'It's not anything that the company wanted to do.'"