Government Regulation of Radio: Free Speech

Essay by camshaft1982University, Bachelor'sA-, May 2006

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In 1978 a radio station owned by Pacifica Foundation

Broadcasting out of New York City was doing a program on contemporary

attitudes toward the use of language. This broadcast occurred on a

mid-afternoon weekday. Immediately before the broadcast the station

announced a disclaimer telling listeners that the program would

include "sensitive language which might be regarded as offensive to

some."(Gunther, 1991) As a part of the program the station decided to

air a 12 minute monologue called "Filthy Words" by comedian George

Carlin. The introduction of Carlin's "routine" consisted of, according

to Carlin, "words you couldn't say on the public air waves."(Carlin,

1977) The introduction to Carlin's monologue listed those words and

repeated them in a variety of colloquialisms:

I was thinking about the curse words and the swear words, the cuss

words and the words that you can't say, that you're not supposed to

say all the time.

I was thinking one night about the words you

couldn't say on the public, ah, airwaves, um, the ones you definitely

wouldn't say, ever. Bastard you can say, and hell and damn so I have

to figure out which ones you couldn't and ever and it came down to

seven but the list is open to amendment, and infact, has been changed,

uh, by now. The original seven words were shit, piss, fuck, cunt,

cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Those are the ones that will curve

your spine, grow hair on your hands and maybe, even bring us, God help

us, peace without honor, and a bourbon. (Carlin, 1977)

A man driving with his young son heard this broadcast and reported it

to the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]. This broadcast of

Carlin's "Filthy Words" monologue caused one of the greatest and most

controversial cases in the history of...