Information about Broadcast Obscenity/Indecency Laws:

The Courts have said that obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be broadcast at any time. To be considered obscene, material must meet a 3-prong test:

  1. An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient (arousing lustful feelings) interest;
  2. The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and
  3. The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Indecency is defined as language or material that, in context, describes or depicts, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community broadcast standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities. Indecent programming contains patently offensive sexual or excretory references that do not rise to the level of obscenity. As such, the courts have held that indecent material is protected by the First Amendment and cannot be banned entirely. It may, however, be restricted in order to avoid its broadcast during times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience. As such, broadcasts -- both on television and radio -- that fit within the indecency definition and that are aired between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. are subject to indecency enforcement action.

NOTE: These laws DO NOT apply to cable programming.


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