A BIG FREAKING DEAL FOR THE INDECENCY RULE…. During the Bush era, the Federal Communications Commission became increasingly aggressive in cracking down on television broadcasters on “indecent” content. In 2004, after the Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction,” the Republican Congress empowered the FCC to levy massive fines against stations for individual “indecent” incidents.

Broadcasters pushed back, and took the FCC to court. This afternoon, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals told the networks exactly what they wanted to hear.

A United States appeals court tossed out the indecency policy of the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, calling it a violation of the First Amendment.

An appeals panel said the F.C.C. policy was “unconstitutionally vague, creating a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here.”

The ruling was immediately characterized as a victory for big broadcasters like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, which have been fighting the indecency policy for years.

“By prohibiting all `patently offensive’ references to sex, sexual organs and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what `patently offensive’ means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive,” the appeals court concluded.

The ruling added, “To place any discussion of these vast topics at the broadcaster’s peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship of valuable material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment.”

The entire ruling is online here.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.