Federal Communications Law Journal

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Publication Citation

52 Federal Communications Law Journal 273 (2000)


Courts have long held that the government can punish an individual for falsely shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. But what is a government agency to do when the venue is none other than a theater of the imagination heard throughout the nation? Ever since the broadcast of Orson Welles's War of the Worlds, the FCC has struggled to find a balance in preventing harmful broadcast hoaxes while still encouraging radio to develop vibrant, imaginative programming. What defines a hoax deemed harmful to the public interest versus one that constitutes mere playful entertainment? This Article details the major events and debates throughout the decades which have led up to the current FCC regulations concerning broadcast hoaxes. The Article analyzes the current regulations in terms of its goals and likely effectiveness in helping to solve a problem that has continually dogged the FCC virtually since its inception.