By a narrow 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Bush Federal Communications Commission acted reasonably in banning even the single-time utterance of “fleeting expletives” over broadcast airwaves.

But the decision in FCC v. Fox Television Stations (pdf), which was based on principles of administrative law, stopped short of deciding whether the ban violates the First Amendment, as broadcasters had argued. The high court sent the case back to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for further proceedings, including an examination of the constitutional issue.

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