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Sable Communications of California, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission

Citation. 492 U.S. 115, 109 S. Ct. 2829, 106 L. Ed. 2d 93, 1989 U.S.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Petitioner, Sable Communications of California (Petitioner), implemented “dial-a-porn” as a business and was charged with violating a federal statute prohibiting obscene telephone messages.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Sexual expression that is indecent, but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).


In 1983, the Petitioner started a porn phone line in the Los Angles area. Special phone lines were installed that could handle large volumes of calls. The phone company charged users a special fee for dialing these numbers. The fee was spit between the phone company and the Petitioner.


Is it constitutional for the Respondent, the Federal Communications Commission (Respondent), to ban indecent and obscene interstate commercial telephone messages?


It is constitutional to ban obscene telephone communications, but this regulation is not narrowly construed.


This decision is distinguishable from Pacifica because of the medium of communication. Where the airwaves may permeate the privacy of a home, the dial-a-porn requires an affirmative action by the person to receive it. The Respondent argues that this regulation is necessary to protect minors from accessing the porn, but the majority rejects this due to a lack of evidence.

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