Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation

Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation

Litigants=Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation
ArgueDateA=April 18
DecideDate=July 3
FullName=Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation, et al.
Citation=98 S. Ct. 3026; 57 L. Ed. 2d 1073; 1978 U.S. LEXIS 135; 43 Rad. Reg. 2d (P & F) 493; 3 Media L. Rep. 2553
Prior=Certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Subsequent=Rehearing denied, 439 U.S. 883 (October 2, 1978)
Holding=Because of the pervasive nature of broadcasting, it has less First Amendment protection than other forms of communication. The F.C.C. was justified in concluding that Carlin's "Filthy Words" broadcast, though not obscene, was indecent, and subject to restriction.
JoinMajority=Burger, Blackmun, Rehnquist, Powell
JoinDissent2=Brennan, White, Marshall
LawsApplied=U.S. Const. amend. I; UnitedStatesCode|18|1464

"Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation", 438 U.S. 726 (1978) is a landmark United States Supreme Court decision that defined the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over "indecent" material as applied to broadcasting.


In 1973, a father complained to the FCC that his son had heard the George Carlin routine "Filthy Words" broadcast one afternoon over WBAI, a Pacifica Foundation FM radio station in New York City. Pacifica received a sanction from the FCC, in the form of a letter of reprimand, for allegedly violating FCC regulations which prohibited broadcasting "indecent" material.


The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the FCC action in 1978, by a vote of 5 to 4, ruling that the routine was "indecent but not obscene". The Court accepted as compelling the government's interests in 1) shielding children from patently offensive material, and 2) ensuring that unwanted speech does not enter one's home. The Court stated that the FCC had the authority to prohibit such broadcasts during hours when children were likely to be among the audience, and gave the FCC broad leeway to determine what constituted indecency in different contexts.

ee also

*George Carlin
*Seven dirty words (detailed account of the issue)
*List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 438

Further reading

*cite book |chapter=FCC v. Pacifica Foundation |last=Tremblay |first=R. Wilfred |title=Free Speech on Trial: Communication Perspectives on Landmark Supreme Court Decisions |editor=Parker, Richard A. (ed.) |year=2003 |publisher=University of Alabama Press |location=Tuscaloosa, AL |isbn=081731301X |pages=218–233

External links

* [http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/FCC_v_Pacifica/fcc_v_pacifica.decision Text of the decision] from the Electronic Frontier Foundation
* [http://laws.findlaw.com/us/438/726.html Text of the decision courtesy of FindLaw] .
* [http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/120/audioresources Audio of the oral argument and decision]
* [http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faclibrary/case.aspx?case=Federal_Communications_Commission_v_Pacifica First Amendment Library entry on "FCC v. Pacifica Foundation"]

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