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)

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!