Obscenity and Libel in the United States Courts Essay

In the Pacifica case, the (FCC) received a complaint from a concerned father. The complainant claimed that his son had been subjected to the by George Carlin during his popular program that was aired in the afternoon. The Pacifica Foundation radio station, which broadcasted the program, was reprimanded by FCC for allegedly breaching its regulations that barred any broadcast of indecent materials. The the decision by FCC to censure the radio station by arguing that FCC acted in its best interest to protect children from accessing indecent materials through broadcast. However, the court was quick to point out that a clear distinction between indecency and obscenity should be established. Though indecency speech unlike an obscene speech is protected, the usage of the same should also be regulated. This means that the particular hour that the program was broadcasted was critical as the audience at that time comprised of children. This was the rationale behind the decision in this case. This particular case has had a great impact on broadcasting as it was further evidenced in the Fox Television News case (Zelezny 556). Justice Scalia pointed out that the Public Telecommunications Act of 1992 clearly stipulated the hours that an indecent speech could be aired either on television or radio. In this particular case, the issue arose out of two Billboard Music Awards that saw the presenters use obscene language when the shows were aired live on . This prompted the FCC to change its policy regarding the objectivity of fleeting or isolated expletives on the airwaves. Before the Fox Television Network case, FCC operated on the policy of repetitive expletives rather than single expletives but later held that single expletives were also actionable.

It is therefore evident that the content available to the society has changed over the last fifty years. This is attributed to the fact that most television or radio shows are becoming even more salacious as a ploy to attract more viewers. A broadcast material that was seen as unfit for broadcast fifty years ago is now freely televised. Expletives on the airwaves have become the norm and the children have not been spared either. Justice Scalia bases her argument on two very basic principles. It is not clear whether our children are already exposed to the explicit language hence rendering the policies by the FCC useless, or whether the FCC should be stricter on the use of explicit language on the airwaves.

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It can be argued that the standards of the society did not transform overnight thereby directing much of the blame to the FCC. The laxity by the FCC has ended up deregulating the broadcasting industry hence exposing the children to indecent and obscene materials. FCC should therefore stand its ground and embrace its role as the enforcer of public decency in all the broadcasting stations. Only then will we be able to protect our childrens viewing rights and further shield them from such explicit materials that have become so rampant on the airwaves.

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