A. Music censorship was first introduced in 1927. The Radio Act of 1927 was instituted as a measure to regulate what music was appropriate for airplay and this agency had the power to monitor songs before they were played on the radio and if a song was deemed to be inappropriate, the FCC would use rules, regulations and policies to prevent a song from being played through a public medium. The FCC also used the Radio Act as leverage to force independent radio stations to comply with the guidelines that prohibited them from playing songs that contained obscene, indecent or profane language. This form of censorship was initially created to regulate what music a radio station could or could not play and then censorship evolved to the point that it was applied to all forms of artistic expressions.
B. In 1934 the FCC was created by Congress as the new governing body of censorship and once the FCC got firmly established, the scope of their responsibilities became very broad because censorship encompassed not only radio but all public mediums for freedom of expressions. In its first year, the FCC regulated a broadcast business which then consisted of 623 radio stations and a telephone industry with 14 million phones. The industry has grown to more than 25,000 TV and radio stations in 2001 and more than192 million phones in 2000(washingtonpost.com). The transformation of the FCC has brought about quite few changes that have impacted all forums of artistic expression.
Censorship and Rap Music
A. Preventing or Punishing speech….is a clear violation of the First Amendment (Opposing Viewpoints by. Greenhaven Presspg.147). Rap music has suffered the most from censor ship because there is a great concern within some government agencies about the content of some songs that is labeled “gangsta rap”. The lyrics of some of these songs glorify violence, drug use and the degradation of women. Also, some rap songs have been banned because they promote civil disobedience and create negative and dangerous attitudes against law enforcement agencies. Violence in music is not an exclusive trait in rap or gangsta rap because there are other genres of music that have history when it comes to singing songs that contain references to murder, killing police officers, and domestic violence. Case in point; Eric Clapton’s popular song “I Shot The Sheriff”(1974)and Woodie Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd”(1987)which glorified killing a police officers. Yet dispite the historical use of violent lyrics in music, country and folk artist are rarely blamed for escalating murder and domestic violence rates (Hershey-Webb 1993).
B. Rap musicians have been subjected to freedom of speech violations more often than other genres of musicians because the nature of their music describes the reality of the type environment that many of them grew up in and some politicians and special interest groups perceive the lyrics of their songs as being immoral and an influence on the violence in our society. Racial motivations has been linked to how black musicians are censored because their songs crossed over certain color barriers and started to appeal to white suburban youths and parents in positions of influence took notice of their children and developed a sense of insecurity. Rock music was also targeted because of songs that were deemed socially deviant but the extent of censorship was not on the same level that that was directed towards rap music. Race may seem a factor in strange in music, but it has played a significant role. In particular, rhythm and blues emerged onto the national music landscape and because the songs freely expressed sexual desires, clear drug references and other antics that were not prevalent in other genres of music.(Sparrow)
Music censorship has been a point of contention since it was first introduced in 1927 and even though the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives us the lawful exercise freedom of speech, we are still susceptible to having restraints placed on us and until we are able to freely express ourselves through music, art and literature, our constitutional right to artistic expression will be compromised. Rap music and other genres should be able to use music as a form of artistic expression without being censored or punished.
Hershey-Webb, D.(1993,April 21).Crime and Culture, The Recorder,pg.8
Paulson, K. First Amendment Center
Hall, R. “Music Censorship” Lehigh University.2009,web 20 Feb.2012.
Lombardi,V. Music and Censorship. “Noise Between Stations.1 Dec.1996.22 Sept.2009
The Radio Act of 1927.Public Law No.632,Feb.23,1927 69th Congress
What is Censorship, ACLU 30 Aug. Web 20 Feb.2012.
Sparrow, K. Music Censorship (part 1): A brief history.”