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xmag.com : November 2001 : Behind the Hype

 

It's that time again for High School and College term papers that address the subject of radio censorship--insofar as song lyrics and what can or cannot be uttered by yours truly on the air. I know this, because I've started to get the
e-mails from serious students asking me just that. This doesn't bother me; in fact, I'm glad that people take an interest in the subject. I have to warn you: Most of the time, I'm as confused about all of this as you are. So, let's fuck, piss and shit our way into the wacky world of censorship!'

Years ago, a listener asked why certain songs could get away with 'objectionable' lyrics when others could not; my response then, as it is now..."fuck if I know!" No, the band wasn't paying us to keep their songs dirty; and, no, the station wasn't responsible for the matter in which the song was edited (unless the record company was wise enough to send us the unedited version, and then it was open season). The plain fact of the matter is: Nowadays, it's largely a judgment call on the part of individual radio stations as to what lyrics make it on air.

The FCC's rules define indecent speech as: "language that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs." By this token, it's interesting to note that in the past year, song lyrics such as "My boyfriend's a dick. He brings a gun to school," has the word 'gun' edited, but not 'dick.' Yep. It's a beautiful day in radio when you can now say terms such as 'blow job' and 'asshole' on the air without alarms going off and troops raiding the building, but if a song has a drug or gun reference, forget about it.

Personally, I feel that's a bit over the top. If a song is encouraging violence toward women, or telling you to shoot up, or go out and set things on fire, then yes, that's a song that deserves to be edited. But a song that's merely a narrative of these things, and does not encourage this activity, will still get edited...this I feel is wrong. Sure, the 'bringing a gun to school' reference isn't very timely, but the song's not encouraging violent behavior. Is the average listener that stupid to think that Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit is actually telling you to go and cause mayhem and 'break stuff?' Well, as evidenced by Woodstock '99, I guess that answer might be 'yes.' But that's the same lame reasoning "Light My Fire" by The Doors created so much controversy back in '67. Nowhere in that song, however, did it tell you to go out and burn shit. (Ed's note: Jim Morrison was warned before going on the Ed Sullivan show to not sing "Girl we couldn't get much higher"...a drug reference. The show was live, so Morrison defied the censors and sang it anyway...louder.)

How does all this censorship shit work? The FCC is merely a regulatory commission and not some Orwellian, black-helicopter, snooping organization that many would like you to believe. Most of the time, it takes a person or group of people outside the FCC to lodge a complaint. So if someone takes offense to the Beastie Boys being "the illest motherfucker from here to Gardena," they will contact the station and/or the FCC and eventually the song gets nerfed. A lot of the time, I think it's just a question of what the individual radio station thinks it can get away with and how long it takes before someone notices. All this might seem like it's encroaching on our freedoms, but there's still a lot that can fly in underneath the radar. Oh, and if any of those High School or College students want to use any of this for their paper, they're welcome to reference it... just make sure your Mom doesn't find this magazine.

 

 

 

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