Indecency and Obscenity

According to federal law, it is illegal to air obscene broadcasts at any time of day, and to air indecent programming or to use profane language at certain times of the day. Television and radio stations may have their licenses to broadcast revoked if they break this law. Other penalties include a fine or simply a warning.

Obscene material is defined as that which the average person would feel appeals to prurient interests, that it describes sexual actions in an obviously offensive manner, and that it has no serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. 

Indecent material has content that is patently offensive that is not quite at the level of obscenity. The courts have decided that indecent material is protected by the First Amendment so it cannot be prevented from broadcast entirely. However, they can be restricted to times when children would see or hear them, between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

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