First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica (docket #: 77-528) (1978)  [Findlaw]

Argument Date 04/18/1978
Decided 7/3/1978
Supreme Court Vote 5-4
IssueWhether a broadcast of patently offensive words dealing with sex and excretion may be regulated because of its content.
Case Summary & Additional Resources
Majority Opinion Stevens, J. (announced judgment, with plurality concurring in various parts)
Concurring Opinion Powell, J. (concurring in part & concurring in the judgment) (joined by Blackmun, J.)
Dissenting Opinion Brennan, J. (joined by Marshall, J.), & Stewart, J. (joined by Brennan, J., Marshall, J., & White, J.)
Lower Court Distict of Columbia Court of Appeals
Lower Court Ruling First Amendment claim sustained
Oral Arguments Oral Arguments  [Oyez]
For Petitioner
Joseph A. Marino

For Respondent
Harry M. Plotkin

For United States
Louis F. Claiborne

For Amicus
Anthony H. Atlas for Morality in Media, Inc.

Charles M. Firestone filed a brief for the Committee for Open Media

George E. Reed & Patrick F. Geary for the United States Catholic Conference

Henry R. Kaufman, Joel M. Gora, Charles Sims, & Bruce J. Ennis for the American Civil Liberties Union et al.

Irwin Karp for the Authors League of America, Inc.; by James Bouras, Barbara Scott, & Fritz E. Attaway for the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.

J. Roger Wollenberg, Timothy B. Dyk, James A. McKenna, Jr., Carl R. Ramey, Erwin G. Krasnow, Floyd Abrams, J. Laurent Scharff, Corydon B. Dunham, & Howard Monderer for the American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., et al.

Paul P. Selvin for the Writers Guild of America, West Inc.

News Stories & Commentary
AP, "Clear Channel chief tells House panel he's 'ashamed' of program"

AP, "Congressman proposes banning 8 crude words from airwaves" (Dec. 16, 2003)

AP, "FCC chairman calls for bigger fines for broadcast indecency"

AP, "FCC chairman to Congress: TV, radio must clean up act"

AP, "FCC launches probe into Super Bowl halftime show"

AP, "FCC proposes record fine for indecency"

AP, "FCC proposes record fine for indecency""

AP, "House panel blasts FCC over indecency standards"

AP, "House votes to raise fines for indecent programming" (3-12-04)

Brown, Les, "Ferris Says F.C.C. Will Not Act As Censor of Controversial Issues," New York Times, July 23, 1978, p. 24
Brown, Les, "Court's Decision on Language Stirs Boradcasters," New York Times, July 10, 1978, sect. C, p. 18
Editorial, Washington Post, "Seven Naughty Words, July 7, 1978, sect. A, p. 18
Greenhouse, Linda, "Justices Back F.C.C. on Offensive Words," New York Times, July 4, 1978, p. 39
Heins, Marjorie , "More Than Seven Dirty Words"

Ken Paulson, "Flashpoint: Janet Jackson and government regulation of TV"

McMasters, Paul, "Surrendering our choices to a sense of decency" (04-10-05)

Mintz, Morton, "FCC "'Dirty Words' Warning is Upheld," Washington Post, July 4, 1978, sect. A, p. 1
von Hoffman, Nicholas, "Seven Dirty Words: A Cute Form of Censorship," Washington Post, July 29, 1978, sect. E, p. 3
Will, George F., "Is there a 'Periphery' on the First Amendment?," Washington Post, July 9, 1978, sect. B, p. 7
Lili Levi, "How the FCC regulates indecency"

"George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words"

Barton, R.L., "The Lingering Legacy of Pacifica," 53 Journalism Quarterly 429 (1976)
Brenner, "Censoring the Airwaves: The Supreme Court's Pacifica Decision," in FREE BUT REGULATED: TRADITIONS IN MEDIA LAW (1982)
Chemerinsky, Erwin, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: PRINCIPLES & POLICIES (1997), pp. 846-849
Collins, Ronald, & Skover, David, THE TRIALS OF LENNY BRUCE (2002)

Crigler, John, & Byrnes, William, "Decency Redux: The Curious History of the new FCC Broadcast Indecency Policy," 38 Catholic University Law Review 329 (1989)
George Carlin web site

Hilliard, Robert L. and Michael C. Keith, DIRTY DISCOURSE: SEX AND INDECENCY IN BROADCASTING. Blackwell Publishing (2006).
Huffman, J.L., & Trauth, D.M., "Obscenity, Indecency & the Rehnquist Court," 13 Communications and the Law 3 1991)
Levi, L., "The Hard Case of Broadcast Indency," 20 New York University Review of Law & Social Change 49 (1992)
Saunders, Kevin, SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM THE FIRST AMENDMENT (2003), pp. 57-58, 133-135, 205-206, 210, 212, 226

Shiffrin, Steven, THE FIRST AMENDMENT, DEMOCRACY, & ROMANCE (1990), p. 80
Spitzer, Matthew L., SEVEN DIRTY WORDS & OTHER STORIES (1986)
Timmer, Joel, "The Seven Dirty Words You Can Say on Cable and DBS: Extending Broadcast Indecency Regulation & The First Amendment," 10 Communications Law & Policy 179-215 (Spring 2005)
Tremblay, R. Wilfred, "FCC v. Pacifica," in FREE SPEECH ON TRIAL (2003), Richard A. Parker, ed., pp. 218-233

Tribe, Laurence, AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (2nd ed., 1988), pp. 935-938
Zuckman, Harvey L., & Corn-Revere, Robert L., et al., MODERN COMMUNICATIONS LAW (1999), pp. 1245-1249
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