The Dirty Words You Cannot Say on Television: Does the First Amendment Prohibit Congress from Banning All Use of Certain Words?

To counter the indecent and profane language currently being used on television and radio, Representative Doug Ose of California proposed the Clean Airwaves Act which, if enacted, would punish television and radio broadcasters for airing eight specific words and phrases deemed to be profane, regardless of the context used by the speaker. In this note, the author takes issue with this legislation and questions its validity under the First Amendment.In order for the Clean Airwaves Act to be constitutional under the First Amendment, it must regulate unprotected speech. Both obscene and in-decent speech are types of unprotected speech. Indecent speech, on the other hand, receives some First Amendment protection.The author argues that the Act seeks to regulate protected speech, and thus is unconstitutional.

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