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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

Recent legislative actions by the federal government demonstrate a growing intolerance toward controversial material contained in publicly-funded art and broadcast over the public airwaves. While a congressional bill aimed at restricting grants by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for offensive works has received a great deal of public attention, a simultaneous campaign to eliminate indecency in broadcasting is silently underway. The passage of a 24-hour ban on broadcast indecency by Congress and active enforcement of indecency regulations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) currently render radio and television stations vulnerable to sanctions for airing indecent programming.

This Note explores the movement against indecency over the airwaves and its potential effect on public radio and television. Because public broadcasting-like the arts-depends on federally appropriated funds, it is vulnerable to the conditioning of receipt of those funds pursuant to congressional regulation. This Note argues that a legislative scheme that conditions federal subsidies upon public broadcasters' promise to refrain from airing indecent programming would chill fully protected speech in contravention of the first amendment.

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