Censorship, Radio, Music, And The Supreme Court: Is The Fcc So Bad?

1572 words - 6 pages

Since signing into law of the Communications Act of 1934, the FCC has been the ironclad authority that defines obscene material. In 1934, this was not much of a problem. Music used no profanity and never talked directly about sex. As the content of music has changed over the years, however, the role of the FCC has changed. Music today features explicit lyrics that often describe sex, violence towards authority, and the consumption of illegal substances. As a result, the FCC today is a more powerful organization that extends its reaches into all aspects of media. Radio and television, however, remain the mediums in which the FCC exercises the most control over what it calls "obscene" and "indecent" materials. Though it may not always make decisions that everyone agrees with, the FCC is an organization that represents the desires, rights, and interests of the American people regarding public broadcasts in a manner most suitable to the majority.The FCC effectively represents the people in three ways. First, the FCC only bans material in radio, which it finds to be obscene according to a very strict definition. Second, the FCC protects the first amendment rights of citizens by providing mediums in public radio in which material that it defines as "indecent" or "profane" may be heard. Third, all of the FCC's statutes regarding censorship are very flexible, so that as moral values change, so will the definitions of obscenity and indecency. The FCC has a great responsibility in enforcing the law regarding obscene speech that was clarified by the Supreme Court in the case of Miller v. California (1973). In this case, a man conducted mass mailings of pornographic material to hundreds of people. The court found that this man was not exercising free speech because his mailings served no public interest. This case was a validation of an earlier case, Roth v. United States in which the court decided that, "implicit in the history of the First Amendment is the rejection of obscenity as utterly without redeeming social importance". In the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling of the law, the FCC has defined obscene speech as having to meet three requirements to achieve the high standard that is obscenity:1. An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest2. The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law3. The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value Any material that fits all of the criteria above is to be considered obscene and cannot be broadcast anywhere, at anytime, on public radio in the United States. This is very reasonable, because as the strictness of these tacits demonstrate, it is quite difficult for music to be labeled obscene. Any music that meets all three of these standards would no doubt be "utterly without...

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