Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation

From Censorpedia


In 1973, comedian George Carlin recorded a twelve minute monologue, "Filthy Words" in front of a live audience in California. On the afternoon of October 30th, 1973, WBAI, a New York radio station owned by Pacifica Foundation, broadcast the routine. Soon after, a father wrote to the FCC complaining that his son had heard "Filthy Words", stating that the FCC was not properly regulating the airwaves. Pacifica Foundation received censure from the FCC, who claimed that Pacifica had violated FCC regulations that prohibited broadcasting indecent material. The FCC ruled that the broadcast was not obscene, but it was indecent and aired at an inappropriate time, and that the FCC did have the right to impose sanctions on broadcast times.

The Seven Words considered indecent by the FCC are

  • Shit
  • Piss
  • Fuck
  • Cunt
  • Cocksucker
  • Motherfucker
  • Tits


The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Holding


On March 17th, 1997, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals reversed in a 2-1 decision, with each of the three judges writing separately.

Majority Opinion

One judge argued that the FCC's order was invalid on the grounds that

  • it constituted censorship, prohibited by the Communications Act of 1934 (link)
Dissenting Opinion

Supreme Court


Majority Opinion
Dissenting Opinion

External Links

Original Sketch [1]