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In the Name of the Children: Government Regulation of Indecency on the Radio, Television and the Internet -- Let's Stop the Madness


Eric Segall


Georgia State University College of Law

February 1, 2009

University of Louisville Law Review, 2009
Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-01

Abstract:     
For a long time the Supreme Court of the United States has assumed that the government has a compelling interest in protecting children from non-obscene, sexually explicit speech. In addition, the Court has also held that radio and television broadcasting receive less First Amendment protection than other forms of media such as cable and satellite television and the internet. These holdings have led the Federal Communications Commission to try and censor non-obscene indecency and invectives from the airwaves and also generated numerous attempts by Congress to censor the internet to protect our children. This article argues that there is no substantial evidence demonstrating that children are seriously harmed by non-obscene sexually explicit speech, and therefore the government does not have a compelling interest in keeping children away from such speech. In addition, the original rationale for the Court's decision that broadcasting receives less First Amendment protection than other media, i.e., that broadcasting is uniquely pervasive inside the home, is no longer true and the Court should therefore find that television and radio broadcasters should receive the same First Amendment protections as other media. This article concludes that, in light of the fundamental principle of First Amendment law that the government is not allowed, absent a compelling interest, to censor speech because of the message and/or potential harm it conveys, unless and until there is substantial evidence that non-obscene constitutionally protected speech harms our children, the decision about how our children should be raised and what speech they can hear should be made by parents and teachers not by the state.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 30

Keywords: First Amendment, speech, FCC, Internet, indecency, free speech, Federal Communications Commission, broadcasting, censorship

JEL Classification: K00, K10

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Date posted: February 12, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Segall, Eric, In the Name of the Children: Government Regulation of Indecency on the Radio, Television and the Internet -- Let's Stop the Madness (February 1, 2009). University of Louisville Law Review, 2009; Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-01. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1341112

Contact Information

Eric Segall (Contact Author)
Georgia State University College of Law ( email )
P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
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