That ruling centered on Carlin’s comedy bit "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" (commonly known as the “Seven Dirty Words” routine), and guided the FCC’s enforcement of so-called “indecent” broadcast content for the next 30 years.
The Parents Television Council took the opportunity of Pacifica’s anniversary July 3 to hammer the networks for daring to challenge the FCC’s indecency-enforcement regime. “The broadcast medium remains uniquely pervasive," said PTC President Tim Winter. “It’s time for the broadcast networks to obey the law instead of undermining it.”
The networks have indeed challenged a number of FCC indecency findings in recent years, reaching U.S. Courts of Appeal in the Second and Third circuits, and now the Supreme Court.
But the challenges have revolved, for the most part, around how the FCC defines and then goes about enforcing its indecency standards (now with a new emphasis on profanity as well) – rather than on the underlying law.
The question has generally been whether the FCC’s interpretation of the law is valid, and whether the FCC is applying that interpretation in a way that is not arbitrary and capricious. The networks have every right to challenge the FCC’s interpretation and actions, as they are presently doing. That does not make the networks lawbreakers, as Mr. Winter disingenuously implies.