Silver Bullet Band

Fighting FCC Radio Censorship

Tuesday Magazine
The Signal (Georgia State University's on-campus newspaper)
"WRFG Starts Censorship Forum"

Joey RamoneMany experts and observers agree that because of the more social agenda of the Reagan administration, a rising tide of censorship is sweeping the country. Incidents such as the Parents Music Resource Center holding hearings attacking the lyrics of popular music, the burning of books and records by fundamentalist preachers and congregations, children's books being pulled off the library shelves, and the "creation science" textbook controversy are just some examples of what see as the gradual encroachment of individual rights and artistic expression.

However, Atlanta-based alternative radio station WRFG, an acknowledged champion of liberal causes, is fighting back by starting a nationwide program called "Open Ears/Open Minds." The program started on New Year's Day and is continuing through Thursday, January 7, 1988. The program deals with the issues and complaints of the April 16, 1987 Federal Communications Commission ruling about indecent language and the November 24, 1987 clarification of the above ruling.

Melanie Collins, General Manager at WRFG, confidently states, "This is the first time radio stations have joined together for a special cause. There are two special aspects about this national program that make it unique: it will address an important issue, and there is no regional ownership of this idea."

It started in 1973 with the Supreme Court ruling on indecent language. A Pacifica radio station was brought to court for broadcasting the George Carlin sketch "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say On Television". The Supreme Court ruled that those words were indecent and if they were broadcasted, the stations would have to play them after 10:00pm.

The April 16 ruling by the FCC restated that the "seven dirty words" are still the general guideline to follow, all sexual innuendoes are not to be permitted, and the excuse of "redeeming social value" was no longer a defense. This vague and repetitive ruling was brought about by action taken against three radio stations across the nation that have had complaints on some of the programs they broadcast.

The first station what was cited for indecent language was the Pacifica station, KPFK, in Los Angeles. The first complaint the FCC received was about a broadcasted gay program, which highlighted a scene from a production in town entitled "The Jurker". The broadcast dealt with homosexuality and AIDS. The second complaint was about a program called "Shocktime USA", but this complaint was dropped.

The second station to be cited was the college station KCSB in Santa Barbara due to a complaint by a parent in the area.

The third station was KYSP in Philadelphia on its morning show. The well-known Howard Stern morning program was cited for being foul and using racial comments against homosexuals and women. There was one complaint by a resident in the area and two by a minister from Tupelo, Mississippi.

On November 24, 1987, because of the complaints by radio stations across the nation that the FCC received for being vague in the wording of the April 16 ruling, the FCC published a clarification which cleared up such matters as a new, broader definition of indecency:

"Material that depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexually or excretory activities or organs."

The only complaint broadcasters have about this FCC edict is that the commission did not publish a list of prohibited words. The FCC also stated that they would not "interpret the `contemporary community standards' for the stations". Basically, the individual stations had to look at the "specific factual setting of each broadcast to determine whether it meets the definition of indecency."

The FCC also no longer recognizes the 10:00pm "safe harbor" that had previously been in effect. The time they had adopted was midnight until six in the morning.

WRFG, also known as "Radio Free Georgia", conducted an ongoing discussion during their 1987 Spring Marathon on the FCC rulings. The station gathered all the ideas from their audience on programs such as "Resurgent America" and they looked at the alleged attacks on popular culture in recent years as well as the FCC rulings to see if they could combat what they perceived as the FCC assault on free expression.

They came up with "Open Ears/Open Minds", which has blossomed into a nationally designated one week marathon where participating radio stations and organizations will, according to a statement from WRFG, look at "the attempts to censor, suppress and ban progressive or controversial artists, ideas and activists." A number of others will be joining WRFG to "broaden the counter offensive and make every effort to get national, regional, and local press coverage."

During the summer and fall of 1982, I dated Melanie Collins briefly, and read from my own poetry collection, taking calls afterwards, on two different occasions of her weekly, Monday evening radio show—Leather Jacket—the only exclusively punk rock venue in the Atlanta area at the time, including Georgia Tech's much touted WREK college radio station. Melanie and I had met earlier that year at a free showing of Rock & Roll High School, a film featuring the Ramones—on the Georgia State University campus.

Gabriel Thy

The Musical Testament

Goal PostsThis is a musical testament. "Our station," adds Sterling Poe, who saunters in with a beach towel jabbed into her ears, "was wenched out of Gabriel's resurgent drive to build an empirical soundscape which more clearly defines reality for himself than any of those other failed venues he has tried, and as such, works to inform and organize his own schematic born of experience, note for note, thought for thought, near and ancient, detourning all media products sold to him as the defining matrix of his life, as a citizen, as a fan, as a writer and broadcaster, reconstructing them as his own mental DNA."

"Of course, this mystified model of the musical life as one's dominate experience is inherently flawed, imperfect, incomplete. But it patches neatly into his original concept of himself as a passionate observer of his own scrappy world trapped in unobliging flesh and disinterested time, brokered only by those crude artistic energies driving him toward the final regurgitation. That's where Fatz comes in."

"While music and literature, when interpreted jointly, is the primary force he transmogrifies, reinvents, infuses with that patented uncontainable Fatz Bullwinkle joy, gluttony sustains the art of genre consumption and thus, still leaves something unsaid, undone, unprocessed. The particular task of recreating a unique and interesting juxtaposition of tagged influences helps identify the relationship, in this case, created between a solitary man and his chosen arts while still wearing the mantle of an unrepentant fan, but yearning for an escape from the addiction, a queer product of his own inaudible past cross-dissolving into the barely audible momentum of a non-specific future. And he chooses to expose others to that dynamic crucible, so that the conquering, the overcoming, the transcendence of middle and muddle may someday begin..."

"That's right," adds Fatz. "Radio Scenewash represents that peculiar, self-identifying cascade of critical choices, random culture-driven influences and other swirling consequences spirited into that crucible of impulse addictions absorbed since my own youth."

The threat of global extinction compels the question. Who are we as Americans? Are we satisfied with ourselves and all our possessions as others starve and die? Our inner life based mostly on an outer one? Our transient good looks? Our precious decomposing books? Are you and I as Americans striking back at something so complex we just can't put a name to it? Need a consequential edge? Already boast one? If you find yourself drawn to us, carry on, for you are revolutionary patriots, born of an age that needs you. If you are the RIAA you may try and pull the whole damned wonderful plug on all us petty nickel and dime broadcasters out here still buying and preserving our beloved music. But we are soldiers, sir...

...reporting this very hour for Revolution Number 9, marching among the scorched roses and pandemonium poses of both fair and foul populations, among their prophets and their peacemakers. Revolution Number 9 has arrived with brigades of burning angels flaming the fives, giving voices and more choices to the next generation of citizen, long may they run.

Icarus Tull says, "Give us your ears and your minds. In turn, we'll eventually pitch you something you can hit out of the park." Crisply sinister Icarus is from Philadelphia and likes to eat his vegetables raw and razor thin only to gnaw on dead men's bones for hours afterwards. He is also left-handed, the oldest of four brothers and four sisters, decidedly anti-revolutionary, but lurking here on the swill just the same. Usually works into the first five minutes of an initial conversation with a stranger that he was created on the third day by R.F. Laird's 1991 literary sensation " The Boomer Bible".

But Fatz insists on hammering home the point. "America is clearly broken, but she deserves a conscientious mending, not imminent destruction, as some would have it. It's time to understand that America and the west is under seige by an imperialistic cult held together by many deceivers, great and small. Blaming America for the whole planet's sins real or imagined solves nothing while ignoring her very real enemies from within and without, very determined enemies basking in their own sins and evil intentions. Further up this long road leading to utopian bliss you can bet the next boss won't be as good to you as this old boss has been. Look around the globe, MAN. Study the situation without blinders, right-wing or left. Fact is, we must each do all we can within our own personal orbits to tame this unquenchable beast now preying upon both the strong and the weak among us or that same beast will devour us without apology. By streaming a few hours from the Radio Scenewash "no holds barred" broadcast, you open a sanctuary for that new poly-American poly-universal patriot, that indigenous patriot who knows the difference between zero and nothing, myth and misfit, worthy noise and worthless glory. It is our belief that a "healthy" Americanism is yet our best bet to thwart the ever-threatening global holocaust predicted by many cultures from the past.

"Our airwaves are priceless treasure worth prying free from the corporate invaders' tightly gloved fists. We, the so-called mushy middle classes always in flux must now become increasingly radicalized as compassionate but responsible centrists who dare voice our repugnance for the pros and semi-pros fueling the well-established fighter jets of the Left and Right arrogant classes, that is to say, the established political classes, who rape and pillage the earth, its people, its hopes and in the bargain, contaminate the only genuine path into the future."

"We can brace for the next aggressive wave of gonzoid American politics to be conducted, or we can wave goodbye to the opportunity. It's always time to GET INFORMED about the world you desire even as it is constrained within the world you fear. As a practical matter, read more about the Internet broadcaster's struggle here. While some may despise our mixing the myriad of musical genres we will broadcast, others may loathe the emergence of politics in one form or another in "nearly" every song, but we have no choice. Life is dangerous. Life is sacred. But it's a political world. The Radio Scenewash Network is a piece of history, a personal soundscape. But it is just one man's past. Trust no one. Trust yourself. Do what you do, know why you're doing it, because you're the [only] one, the one who must pay the price of relevance with your own words, actions, calculations, and drifting...for we are witnesses, ear close to the tracks where ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw, witnesses to the knowledge that within the calculus of blind luck and inveterate losses, GOD (Whatever and Whenever) rules with a flaming sceptre! I am but a straw man. Yet wasn't it Jim Carroll who remarked that "rock-n-roll is the pied piper leading to the apocalypse..."

"When Gabriel was a strapping lad flocking among other strapping lads and bolder, older women, he fronted an imaginary punk band called G.O.D. - a band that tore up the mole hills and monkey halls he found himself serving without regard to sycophancy or pride, an activity which repeatedly got him banned from both the DC under- and over-worlds in the race to conformity that always leaves its mark on the forehead. Hence the evolution of this website's idea of the radical middle, the progressive centrist. The remnants and residuals of Gather Or Divide still inform our fighting spirit (nee Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Age of Reason). This radio station and web site exemplify the notion that all spectacular ambitions get what they deserve once flipped, complete with ugly but fascinating battle scars to prove one's participation in the only history that truly counts - your own. Right? You've got figure it out yourself, but the double-edged blade severing the past from the future has never been static in swing, and now that it's aimed sharply at you, the audience, take in a mighty earful and then give us a shout to let us know how we're doing...