Indecency Timeline


1934 Federal Communications Act Passed, establishing the FCC


June 21, 1973 - US Supreme Court defines obscenity which is not granted First Amendment protection in Miller v. California.

October 30, 1973 - A New York radio station, owned by the Pacifica Foundation, broadcast George Carlin's "Filthy Words" monologue. A man, driving with his young son heard the broadcast and wrote a letter to the FCC stating that, although he could perhaps understand the "record's being sold for private use, I certainly cannot understand the broadcast of same over the air that, supposedly, you control."

July 3, 1978 - "Seven Dirty Words" case decided in the US Supreme Court, FCC v. Pacifica Foundation. Court holds that the government can Constitutionally regulate indecent broadcasts.


December 1988 - President Reagan signs into law a bill requiring the FCC to implement 18 U.S. Code § 1464 banning indecent broadcasts completely – a 24-hour ban.


1990 - DC Circuit Court requires the FCC to lift the 24-hour ban on indecency

1997 - Supreme Court upholds Pacifica ruling in Reno v. ACLU

November 8, 1999 - FCC's Enforcement Bureau is established


March 30, 2001 - FCC imposes its first and only fine against a television station for an indecent broadcast: a $21,000 fine for television indecency to Telemundo of Puerto Rico

April 6, 2001 -- FCC Publishes Industry Guidelines on Indecency.

October 2001 --PTC announces launch of FCC Campaign, which begins with the mailing of thousands of "Community Standards Audits"


January 25, 2003 - PTC Members file 18,000 complaints about "F-word" airing during Golden Globes Broadcast

June 10, 2003 - PTC Members file 20,000 complaints with the FCC about an episode of "Keen Eddie" in which a prostitute is hired to perform a sex act with a horse.

July 23, 2003 - PTC President Brent Bozell testifies before the Senate Commerce Committee that the FCC has refused to do its job to enforce broadcast decency laws

October 3, 2003 - FCC rules that the "F-word" used on the Golden Globes was not indecent because it was used as an "adjective or expletive"

October 21, 2003 - PTC calls for FCC Commission action re: f-word ruling

October 27, 2003 - FCC Commissioner Michael Copps sends a letter to PTC in dissent of FCC f-word ruling

November 17, 2003 - NBC replies to PTC's appeal of FCC's Golden Globes ruling

November 21, 2003 - 30 U.S. Representatives send a letter of disapproval to FCC Chairman Michael Powell for the FCC's f-word ruling and call on him to reverse the decision and sanction broadcasters who violate decency standards.

November 21, 2003 - Rep. Chip Pickering sends a letter of disapproval to FCC Chairman Michael Powell re: FCC's Golden Globe f-word ruling and calls on him to enforce the ban on profanity on the public airwaves.

November 25, 2003 - FCC Chairman Michael Copps sends Brent a letter stating his opinions re: FCC ruling on Golden Globes f-word.

December 5, 2003 - In a speech to the Institute on Telecommunications Policy & Regulation, FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin denounces FCC's Golden Globes ruling

December 9, 2003 - Sense of the Senate resolution passed re: broadcast indecency

December 10, 2003 - PTC Members file 25,000 complaints with the FCC about the "F-word" airing during the Billboard Music Awards

December 15, 2003 - Reps Doug Ose and Lamar Smith introduce legislation making eight words (including "F--k") and phrases indecent no matter how they're used.

December 19, 2003 -- Rep. Pickering sends a letter to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau about the indecent language on the Billboard Music Awards, stating that he believes the incident is a direct result of the FCC's October Golden Globes ruling.


January 14, 2004 - In a speech at the National Press Club, FCC Chairman Michael Powell expresses his interest in reversing the enforcement bureau's ruling on the "Fword" at the Golden Globes. Powell also asks to be able to increase fines tenfold.

January 27, 2004 - FCC announces second-ever fine against a TV station for airing indecent material, $27,500 against KRON Channel 4 in San Francisco. During an interview with performers of the "Puppetry of the Penis," who wore capes but nothing else, one of the actors exposed himself. The FCC said the station should have expected that such a display could have occurred and should have taken steps to prevent it.

January 27, 2004 - $755,000 fine against Clear Channel Communications for a sexually explicit radio show aired on four stations, the secondhighest such fine ever proposed. The stations all in Florida aired various episodes of "Bubba the Love Sponge" a total of 26 times. The commission proposed fining Clear Channel the maximum $27,500 for each time the episode ran, or $715,000.

January 28, 2004 - PTC San Antonio Chapter Director Ray Rossman testifies at FCC Localism hearing in San Antonio

January 28, 2004 - PTC President Brent Bozell testifies in Congressional Hearing examining the FCC's record of enforcement with respect to Broadcast Indecency.

February 1, 2004 - Janet Jackson exposes her breast during the Super Bowl half time show to a national audience of over 140 million including more than 16 million children. More than 200,000 citizens file indecency complaints with the FCC about the Super Bowl half time show.

February 2, 2004 - FCC Chairman Michael Powell announces that the FCC will launch an immediate and thorough investigation of what happened during the half time show.

March 18, 2004 - FCC reverses "F-word" decision, declaring that "Use of the 'F-word' in the context of the Golden Globe Awards was profane under 18 U.S.C. Section 1464.

March 2004 - FCC fines Clear Channel $247,500 for a broadcast of "Elliot in the Morning" on WWDC-FM for nine separate violations. This came on top of a record $755,000 fine against Clear Channel for a sexually indecent broadcast

March 2004 - FCC fines Capstar TX Limited Partnership $55,000 for broadcast of indecent material over stations WAVW-FM in Stuart, FL and WCZR-FM in Vero Beach, FL. The broadcasts contained a dialogue between the hosts and a man and a woman while they were engaging in actual or simulated intercourse.

2004 - FCC handed down a $27,500 fine against WKRK-FM in Detroit, MI for "apparently willfully broadcasting indecent material in connection with the Howard Stern Show, including a discussion of sexual practices and techniques. The Commission found that the broadcast included explicit and graphic sexual and excretory references.

2004 - The FCC affirms a $7,000 forfeiture penalty against Infinity Broadcasting for willfully airing indecent material over WLLD-FM in Holmes Beach, FL. The broadcast included a live rap/hip-hop concert which included references to oral sex and other objectionable material.

April 2004 - The FCC issues a $495,000 fine against six Clear Channel stations for an airing of Howard Stern's radio program. In response, Clear Channel permanently removed the shock jock from their stations.


January 24, 2005 - FCC denies 36 indecency complaints filed by the PTC

February 16, 2005 - House Passes H.R. 310 "The Broadcast Indecency Enforcement Act of 2005" by a vote of 389-38

February 25, 2005 - FCC denies PTC complaint on 11/19/03 episode of Angel

February 28, 2005 - FCC rules "Saving Private Ryan" not indecent.

March 1, 2005 - Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Joe Barton express support for extending decency enforcement to cable/satellite

March 4, 2005 - FCC dismisses complaints against cable series Nip/Tuck

March 10, 2005 - FCC Chairman Michael Powell resigns

March 14, 2005 - FCC dismisses complaints about Monday Night Football/Desperate Housewives promo

March 15, 2005 - Senators Hutchison & Rockefeller introduce S. 616 which would regulate violence and indecency on cable

March 16, 2005 - Kevin Martin named new FCC Chairman

March 28, 2005 - PTC battle against indecency featured in Time Magazine profile

July 13, 2005 - PTC Files Indecency Complaint on ABC's Live 8 Broadcast

July 18, 2005 - PTC Files Indecency Complaint on Fox's The Inside


March 15, 2006 - FCC issues decisions resolving over 300,000 consumer complaints about the broadcast of indecent, profane, and/or obscene television programming on nearly 50 television programs broadcast between February 2002 and March 2005.

April 14, 2006 - ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, their respective network affiliate associations and Hearst Argyle Television challenge FCC rulings.

April 25, 2006 - PTC and 28 Like-Minded Groups coordinate "National Call Day" to flood Senate switchboards demanding passage of broadcast decency enforcement bill.

May 19, 2006 - Senate passes S. 193 which raises maximum penalty for indecency violations to $500,000

June 15, 2006 -- President Bush signs the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act into law.