Institutionalized Word Taboo: The Continuing Saga of FCC Indecency Regulation
Christopher M. Fairman
Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law
February 25, 2013
Ohio State Public Law Working Paper No. 193
Indecency regulation by the Federal Communications Commission and Supreme Court is the product of word taboo — the subconscious, emotional, involuntary avoidance of certain words out of fear that some harm will occur if they are spoken. Acting in tandem, the Court and the Commissioners create institutionalized word taboo based upon the assumption that broadcast media’s pervasive and intrusive presence into the home endangers unsupervised children. Technological innovation renders this premise invalid today, but institutionalized word taboo remains. This article (1) traces the rise of indecency regulation, (2) explains the invalidity of the assumptions used to justify it, (3) introduces word taboo as an explanation for the resilience of regulation, and (4) offers preferable options providing a path for science and reason to triumph over institutionalized word taboo.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 98
Keywords: First Amendment, FCC, indecency, profanity, free speech, Federal Communications Commission, broadcasting, censorship, Media Regulation, TV content, PTC, Pacifica, Cohen, Fox Television, fleeting expletives, parental controls
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K2, K20, K23, L22working papers series
Date posted: February 27, 2013
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