1951 December 6

TV Censorship: Television Broadcasters Adopt Code of Conduct


Strong social and political pressure regarding “acceptable” programming led the National Association of Broadcasters on this day to adopt an official Code of Conduct. The television code was similar to the notorious 1934 Hollywood Production Code, which the film industry adopted on June 13, 1934, and which exerted a heavy hand of censorship of movies through the 1960s.

The television Code of Conduct many aspects of sexuality off television screens for over two decades. Two of the more famous incidents involved the refusal of the popular I Love Lucy show to use the word “pregnant” even though her pregnancy was incorporated into the plot (see December 8, 1952), and the equally popular Ed Sullivan Show presenting Elvis Presley only from the waist up (see September 9, 1956).  The Television code was suspended in 1983 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over other issues. In response to changing social mores about sex and violence, and the competition from cable television, broadcast television became much more permissive beginning in the 1970s. The 1959 Fifth Edition of the Code of Conduct is available online (see below).

Read the 5th Edition (1959) of the Television Code of Conducthttp://www.tv-signoffs.com/1959_NAB_Television_Code.pdf

Learn how television changed in the 1970s: Elana Levine, Wallowing in Sex: The New Sexual Culture of 1970s American Television (2007)

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