The Hard Case of Broadcast Indecency


In 1951, a television station in Houston caused a public outcry when it planned to air a bedding commercial showing a husband and wife in a double bed.’ Radio broadcasts of rock music during the 1950s led to such outrage that the Everly Brothers’ Wake Up, Little Susie was banned in Boston. The phrase “let it all hang out” raised eyebrows at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the 1960s and led to the dismissal of the South Carolina disc jockey who uttered it on the air. In 1967, the Ed Sullivan Show required the Rolling Stones to perform Let’s Spend the Night Together as Let’s Spend Some Time Together.’ And, in the early 1970s, the FCC succeeded in eliminating a popular radio call-in format, known as “topless radio” for its attention to sexual themes, by the simple expedient of having the agency’s chairman publicly denounce it as “a new breed of air pollution.”

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