While many people have chosen to switch to auxiliary cords over traditional radio while in the car, those of us that listen to the radio for our favorite radio hosts or songs may consider censorship a topic of interest. Some of you may be disappointed by the fact that you can’t listen to your favorite song in its purest form, while others of you may appreciate the censorship to preserve the innocence of younger people.
So for you guys to get a better understand of what radio censorship is, I’ll give you all a little background for it and some pros and cons of it.
While I will not go into the complete creation of the radio itself, I’ll go into some of the important events dealing with radio censorship specifically.
In 1927, the Radio Act was formed which rants regulators the authority to “suspend the license of any operator” who “has transmitted… radio communication containing profane or obscene words or language.”
In 1934, the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC for short, was created and in 1960 they were formally mandated to suspend or revoke the licenses of stations that violate the indecency law.
Before going any further, to give everybody a better idea of what is considered indecent, obscene, or profane by the FCC, obscene content has no protection by the 1 Amendment. In order to be considered obscene, a word must meet a 3-pronged test by the Supreme Court, appeal to average person’s sexual interest, describe sex in an offensive way, and lack any literary, artistic, portrait, or scientific value. Indecent content describes sexual organs in a non-obscene way. Profane content is “grossly offensive” language that’s a public nuisance.
In 1978, the FCC v. Pacifica Supreme Court case allowed the FCC to fine stations for airing George Carlin’s “7 dirty words” and establishes power of FCC to impose an indecency standard on broadcast media.
In 1988, Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan created a law that eliminated the 10pm-6am indecency safe harbor, but in 1991 the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the rule in Action for Children’ Television v. FCC
The United States isn’t the only country that deals with these issues as the United Kingdom has to deal with the BBC for their censorship along with plenty of other countries.
Censored music can promote balance between children and adults, as children will be able to talk about songs with adults without the parent having to censor themselves to try and avoid explaining any explicit material to children for the most part.
Having to re-edit a song for radio can promote artistic creativity, because you have to come up with another line that fits the theme of the song, while making it acceptable for radio play. For example, in Eminem’s song “My Name Is…” he changes lines from “When you see my dad, tell him that I just slit his throat in a dream I had” to “ask him if he bought a porno mag and seen my ad.” It can give a new element to an artist to be able to create two different versions of a song.
And speaking of Eminem, someone who has done this in his own music occasionally, it discourages shock value for sales. If an artist mentions a tragic event, or something extremely obscene, people are more likely to be attracted to it due to the fact that they can’t believe someone would even mention it. For example, Rick Ross had garnered a lot of attention for his verse in a song called “U.O.E.N.O” for a line stating “Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it, I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”
While everything has its pros, though, there are definitely cons to this as well
The biggest complaint for censored music is that it violates the first amendment. Some people feel as though they cannot fully express their freedom of speech due to the fact that it’ll just be taken off the radio, so they feel a bit offended. Also, some people feel like if somebody feels offended by a song, they can just listen to another song.
Censored music can also limit the music that a radio host can play. If a song is very popular, but it has a word that is considered profane, obscene, or indecent every other line, then playing it may just be annoying to everybody and you may just opt not to play it. Also, some songs don’t have censored versions, so the host would have to do all the censoring himself or herself, and that could be a lot while trying to do everything else.
Sometimes censored music can show a little bit of bias towards certain genres. For example, in a rock song called “B*tch Came Back” by Theory of a Deadman, the song was completely uncensored, along with the title of the song and line like “I like her better when she’s down on her knees,” while in Usher’s R&B song “I Don’t Mind,” the entire line of “Shawty, I don’t mind, if you dance on a pole, that don’t make you a ho” was removed. It shows that sometimes stations aren’t completely thorough in what they want and by who, and it can cause a genre or racial debate due to that fact, but that another discussion for another day.
No matter how somebody feels about censorship, it has been here for a long time, and there are plenty of benefits and constraints that come along with it, similar to anything else.
How do you guys feel about radio censorship? Let us know in the comments below!