Obscenity is considered an extreme form of pornography ("hard core") which does not receive First Amendment protection. Furthermore, obscenity is completely banned in the media. Trying to find a legal definition of the term, Justice Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court noted in the mid '60s: "I know [obscenity] when I see it." Justice Douglas argued that it is hard to define obscenity and that it should not be punished, because it is a matter of personal taste.

As early as 1957, in Roth v. United States (354 U.S. 476), the Supreme Court came up with the first definition of the term, and held that obscenity did not deserve First Amendment protection.

In 1973, the Court decided Miller v. California (413 U.S. 15), a landmark case in obscenity law, and at the same time revised its previous definition of the term.

Although neither of these cases involves broadcasters, both are crucial for having set standards for obscenity and provided definitions. They are used to determine whether broadcasts are obscene and must be baned, or indecent to enjoy a certain degree of constitutional protection.


Read about Roth

Read about Miller



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Last updated Thursday December 5, 2002