The FCC in recent years has tried to implement a no tolerance policy when it comes to network and affiliate on-air expletives, with the number of violations and fines reaching a peak in 2004 when networks were fined almost $8mm.
The debate came into focus when a US soldier stationed in Iraq swore on the air during a broadcast... no, actually that happened on Studio 60 (damn your apt social commentary Sorkin!). No, actually that happened in real life (damn you ripping off what happens in real life Sorkin!) when PBS decided to show the documentary Operation Homecoming: writing the wartime experience, laden with obscenities that US soldiers who appear in the film use to describe their experiences in Iraq.
Another "highlight" in the reel of FCC violations is when Bono swore at the 2004 Golden Globes, in an incident that wasn't fined but used by the FCC as a springboard to fine anyone who can't hit the high note in "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," but can still hit the middle C in f*ck.
The networks recently challenged FCC profanity rules, claiming that inadvertent profanity didn't violate decency standards. A panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled in favor of the networks and stated that the FCC didn't articulate a reason for amping up the profanity patrol. The FCC, and Jesus, are upset, while the networks, especially Fox, are celebrating, according to the Wall Street Journal:
Fox Broadcasting Corp., a News Corp. unit, said it was "very pleased" with the court's decision. "Viewers should be allowed to determine for themselves and their families, through the many parental control technologies available, what is appropriate viewing for their home," Fox said in a statement.
Broadcasters Win Profanity Ruling [Wall Street Journal]