The Federal Communications Commission yesterday announced it will begin an inquiry to determine whether it should regulate what it described as "Dial-a-Porn" telephone services.

Unlike "Dial-a-Prayer" and "Dial-a-Joke," when the "Dial-a-Porn" number is dialed, according the to FCC, "the caller hears a description or depiction of actual or simulated sexual behavior."

The commission must now determine whether such a service violates Section 223 of the Communications Act which makes it illegal for anyone who uses the telephone to make comments or statements that are "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent." The penalty for violation of the statute is a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment for up to six months.

The FCC had tried to have the Justice Department deal with the question of the alleged obscenity but, according to an FCC spokesperson, "They dumped it into our laps" in June.

The inquiry results from complaints about a "Dial-It" service offered through New York Telephone by High Society magazine, a publication known for its photographs of unclad women.

High Society offers what it calls its "Living Centerfold Phone Service"--a recorded soundtrack of sexual activity.

"It has been calculated that the Dial-It number operated by High Society receives up to 500,000 calls a day, yielding approximately $10,000 for High Society and $35,000 for New York Telephone per day before costs," the FCC said.

In New York, telephone users are charged for each local call they make, so the phone company makes money everytime the number is dialed.

Listening to the tawdry talk costs even more for out-of-state-callers and "approximately 20 percent of the calls are interstate," the FCC said.

New York Telephone, which splits the profits from such numbers with the companies that operate them, has argued that it should be allowed to provide the service.

The company contends the law was intended to prevent innocent people from receiving obscene phone calls and not to protect people who are paying to hear them.

The commission noted that a dial-a-porn service was not envisioned at the time Section 223 was enacted.

The FCC's inquiry will also explore whether a telecommunications firm such as the phone company can itself censor or exclude materials that it deems obscene. The commission will first determine if it has the authority to regulate such sevice and then decide whether it should actively regulate such services. The FCC has traditionally tried to avoid "content regulation" of media it oversees.

A commission spokesman said it would be spring of 1984 before the inquiry was complete.

In other news, the FCC approved the application by a company owned by Australian publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch to offer a direct broadcast satellite-to-home television service. The satellite television service, called Skyband, is expected to go on the air before the end of the year.