The Signal (Georgia State University’s on-campus newspaper)
“WRFG Starts Censorship Forum”
Copyright 1988 ARLADEAN ARNSON/THE SIGNAL
[su_dropcap]M[/su_dropcap]any experts and observers agree that because of the more social agenda of the Reagan administration, a rising tide of censorship is sweeping the country. Incidents such as the Parents Music Resource Center holding hearings attacking the lyrics of popular music, the burning of books and records by fundamentalist preachers and congregations, children’s books being pulled off the library shelves, and the “creation science” textbook controversy are just some examples of what see as the gradual encroachment of individual rights and artistic expression.
However, Atlanta-based alternative radio station WRFG, an acknowledged champion of liberal causes, is fighting back by starting a nationwide program called “Open Ears/Open Minds.” The program started on New Year’s Day and is continuing through Thursday, January 7, 1988. The program deals with the issues and complaints of the April 16, 1987 Federal Communications Commission ruling about indecent language and the November 24, 1987 clarification of the above ruling.
Melanie Collins, General Manager at WRFG, confidently states, “This is the first time radio stations have joined together for a special cause. There are two special aspects about this national program that make it unique: it will address an important issue, and there is no regional ownership of this idea.”
It started in 1973 with the Supreme Court ruling on indecent language. A Pacifica radio station was brought to court for broadcasting the George Carlin sketch “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On Television”. The Supreme Court ruled that those words were indecent and if they were broadcasted, the stations would have to play them after 10:00pm.
[su_dropcap]T[/su_dropcap]he April 16 ruling by the FCC restated that the “seven dirty words” are still the general guideline to follow, all sexual innuendoes are not to be permitted, and the excuse of “redeeming social value” was no longer a defense. This vague and repetitive ruling was brought about by action taken against three radio stations across the nation that have had complaints on some of the programs they broadcast.
The first station what was cited for indecent language was the Pacifica station, KPFK, in Los Angeles. The first complaint the FCC received was about a broadcasted gay program, which highlighted a scene from a production in town entitled “The Jurker”. The broadcast dealt with homosexuality and AIDS. The second complaint was about a program called “Shocktime USA”, but this complaint was dropped.
The second station to be cited was the college station KCSB in Santa Barbara due to a complaint by a parent in the area.
The third station was KYSP in Philadelphia on its morning show. The well-known Howard Stern morning program was cited for being foul and using racial comments against homosexuals and women. There was one complaint by a resident in the area and two by a minister from Tupelo, Mississippi.
On November 24, 1987, because of the complaints by radio stations across the nation that the FCC received for being vague in the wording of the April 16 ruling, the FCC published a clarification which cleared up such matters as a new, broader definition of indecency:
“Material that depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexually or excretory activities or organs.”
[su_dropcap]T[/su_dropcap]he only complaint broadcasters have about this FCC edict is that the commission did not publish a list of prohibited words. The FCC also stated that they would not “interpret the `contemporary community standards’ for the stations”. Basically, the individual stations had to look at the “specific factual setting of each broadcast to determine whether it meets the definition of indecency.”
The FCC also no longer recognizes the 10:00pm “safe harbor” that had previously been in effect. The time they had adopted was midnight until six in the morning.
WRFG, also known as “Radio Free Georgia”, conducted an ongoing discussion during their 1987 Spring Marathon on the FCC rulings. The station gathered all the ideas from their audience on programs such as “Resurgent America” and they looked at the alleged attacks on popular culture in recent years as well as the FCC rulings to see if they could combat what they perceived as the FCC assault on free expression.
They came up with “Open Ears/Open Minds”, which has blossomed into a nationally designated one week marathon where participating radio stations and organizations will, according to a statement from WRFG, look at “the attempts to censor, suppress and ban progressive or controversial artists, ideas and activists.” A number of others will be joining WRFG to “broaden the counter offensive and make every effort to get national, regional, and local press coverage.”
During the summer and fall of 1982, I dated Melanie Collins briefly, and read from my own poetry collection, taking calls afterwards, on two different occasions of her weekly, Monday evening radio showLeather Jacketthe only exclusively punk rock venue in the Atlanta area at the time, including Georgia Tech’s much touted WREK college radio station. Melanie and I had met earlier that year at a free showing of Rock & Roll High School, a film featuring the Ramoneson the Georgia State University campus.