The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, March 27, 2004

Which law bars FCC censorship of satellite broadcasts?

The basic law on the matter is 18 USC 1464:
Whoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

It was originally enacted, more or less in this form, in §29 of the Radio Act of 1927 (PDF).

Now, when TV came along, there was presumably some case which applied the rule, mutatis mutandis, to images.

But where is the definition for radio communication [1]? And, if regular TV is within the section, why isn't direct broadcasting by satellite (DBS)?

Now 18 USC 1468 [2] says that
Whoever knowingly utters any obscene language or distributes any obscene matter by means of cable television or subscription services on television, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or by a fine in accordance with this title, or both
and says that
As used in this section, the term ''distribute'' means to send, transmit, retransmit, telecast, broadcast, or cablecast, including by wire, microwave, or satellite...

If §1464 applied to satellite, §1468 would be superfluous.

The answer will no doubt turn up eventually: Micawber is the patron saint of Online!

  1. The 1927 Act definition (§31) is this:
    The expression "radio communication" or "radio communications" wherever used in this Act means any intelligence, message, signal, power, pictures, or communication of any nature transferred by electrical energy from one point to another without the aid of any wire connecting the points from and at which the electrical energy is sent or received and any system by means of which such transfer of energy is effected.
  2. This version is two years old - may not be current. The law was enacted by the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984.


While the URL is to hand, a general paper on Regulation and Deregulation of Telecommunications may be of interest. Also this, this (PDF), this (PDF), this (PDF), this, this and this (PDF) (of varying degrees of relevance!).

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