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CourtSpeak: FCC v. Pacifica Foundation Indecency Case (1978)

First Amendment Read more from
Chapter The Burger Court (1969–86)

Justice John Paul Stevens (plurality): “To say that one may avoid further offense by turning off the radio when he hears indecent language is like saying that the remedy for an assault is to run away after the first blow. One may hang up on an indecent phone call, but that option does not give the caller a constitutional immunity or avoid a harm that has already taken place…. We simply hold that when the Commission finds that a pig has entered the parlor, the exercise of its regulatory power does not depend on proof that the pig is obscene.”

Justice William Brennan (dissenting): “Whatever the minimal discomfort suffered by a listener who inadvertently tunes into a program he finds offensive during the brief interval before he can simply extend his arm and switch stations or flick the ‘off’ button, it is surely worth the candle to preserve the broadcaster’s right to send, and the right of those interested to receive, a message entitled to full First Amendment protection.”

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