Regulation of Broadcast Indecency: Background and Legal Analysis [Updated March 5, 2004]   [open pdf - 1MB]

Two recent events have placed increased attention on the FCC and its indecency regulations . The airing of the 2003 Golden Globe Awards and the subsequent ruling by the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, coupled with the controversy surrounding the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show, have brought broadcast indecency to the forefront of the congressional agenda. Bills have been introduced to increase the penalties imposed for broadcast indecency (H.R. 3717, S. 2056, S . 2147) and to prohibit the broadcast of certain words and phrases in any grammatical form (H.R. 3687). Resolutions have been introduced to express disapproval of the FCC Enforcement Bureau's decision regarding the Golden Globe Awards broadcast : H.Res. 482, H.Res. 500, and S . Res. 283, which the Senate passed on December 9, 2003 . In addition, both the House and Senate have held or scheduled hearings on broadcast indecency. This report provides background on the two events in question, discusses the legal evolution of the FCC's indecency regulations, and provides an overview of how the current regulations have been applied . The final section of the report considers whether prohibiting the broadcast of "indecent" words regardless of context would violate the First Amendment.

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL32222
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