In 1964, in Jacobellis v. Ohio, a case regarding an allegedly obscene film, Supreme Court Justice
Stewart Potter Stewart famously wrote in his opinion,
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [of hard-core pornography]…But I know it when I see it…
Of course, the problem is that not everyone has the same reaction to what they see. While the 1964 case specifically dealt with a film, and a judgment on whether it crossed the line from pornographic (legal) to obscene (not), similar arguments are common regarding what is appropriate on TV. The Federal Communications Commission may impose penalties, including large fines or revoking a broadcaster’s license, on networks that air “indecent or profane programming during certain hours.” Last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case regarding the FCC’s regulations and whether they violate free speech guarantees.
Dmitriy T.M. sent in a segment from The Daily Show that highlights some of the inconsistencies and contradictions in the FCC’s standards for prime time, and the seeming arbitrariness of decisions about what is “indecent”: