FCC v. Pacifica Foundation Case Brief

Summary of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation


A radio station aired George Carlin’s Filthy Words monologue during the afternoon weekday.

Procedural History:

The FCC imposed a sanction on D.


Can the FCC censor this speech?


Yes, the FCC can censor the speech because unlike other types of speech, radio invades private homes and is accessible to children. For this reason, even non-obscene speech in this case is censorable.

He’s only saying that you can regulate in this case because the speech is of lesser value. You cant regulate all speech that enters the home through the radio.




Powell concur: Focuses on the effect it has on unsupervised children. But doesn’t agree with the court deciding what speech has “value" and is therefore afforded higher protections.

Brennan dissent: the speech here isn’t obscene, and they aren’t fighting words, so they should be protected. Further, the listener in this case voluntarily allows the speech into his home by turning on the radio. The speech shouldn’t be banned because the unwilling listener can just turn off the radio, thus allowing those who do want to hear the speech to continue to do so.

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