1970 April 1

Grateful Dead Provokes First-Ever FCC Indecency Fine

 

Radio station WUHY in Philadelphia was fined for a “string of vulgarities,” expressed by Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia. The case led to the first fine ever imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for broadcast indecency. Dean Burch, Chair of the FCC, was searching for a test case in which the FCC could assert standards of decency in radio broadcasting. The executives of WUHY, however, chose to pay the $100 fine rather than contest the decision, and so there was no court case involving a test of the FCC’s standards and the First Amendment.

The most important case regarding FCC regulation of alleged indecency involved comedian George Carlin’s famous “seven dirty words” monologue. The Supreme Court upheld the FCC’s ban on the seven words in FCC v. Pacifica. See March 2, 1973, October 30, 1973, and the Supreme Court decision on July 3, 1978.

Put the case in context (see p. 54): Elana Levine, Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television (2007)

Learn more about the FCC’s regulation of indecency: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/madison/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/FirstReport.Indecency.Levi_.final_.pdf

Read: Fredrick S. Lane, Decency Wars: The Campaign to Cleanse American Culture (2006)

Read about the FBI’s investigation of the rock classic, Louie Louie: Dave Marsh, Louie Louie (1993)

Learn more about music and censorship: http://www.ncac.org/Music

Check out the Grateful Dead web site: http://www.dead.net/

Learn more: Eric Nuzum, Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America (2001)

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