Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Pacifica Foundation (Respondent), broadcast part of a comedy show that listed the “dirty words” that are not to be used on the radio. The Petitioner, the Federal Communication Commission (Petitioner), issued a declaratory order warning Respondent of potential sanctions.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Broadcasts of indecent material can be regulated according to the context of the broadcast and on a case-by-case basis.
Issue. Can radio broadcasts be regulated for language that is indecent, but not obscene?
Held. Yes. There is a proper public interest in protecting listeners from indecency over the airwaves.
Discussion. The government may regulate the time of day of such broadcasts or prohibit the use of certain words according to the context in which they are used. This ruling considers the broadcast to be an intrusion into the public space and classifies it as a nuisance.