1969 Censorship

  • Category: Miscellaneous
  • Words: 821
  • Grade: 100

Matthew Snyder
November 8, 2001
History of Media Arts II
        
American Television Censorship in 1969
        
1969 was a tumultuous year in the United States. Astronauts landed on the moon for the first time, violent street demonstrations were being held relating to the civil rights movement, and 97% of U.S. households had Television sets. For the first time, Americans were seeing brutal images of the world on their TV sets, including the Vietnam War. Censorship was becoming heavily involved in commercials, entertainment shows and politics.
In 1969, many rules were being challenged. One of which was commercials. The National Assossiation of Broadcasters Television Code provides guidelenes for advertising on television. It states that, "Advertising messages should be presented in an honest, responsible and tasteful manner." When deciding whether or not to broadcast a commercial, the station should consider "the charastistic of the medium, its home and family audience, and the form and content of the particular presentation." If there is "good reason to believe it would be objectoinable to a substantial and responsible segment of the community, the commercial will not be put on the air." Although the advertising of feminine hygiene products was banned at the time, Alberto-Culver Co. had a feminine deodorant spray that they felt the media was ready to see advertised (in a careful and tasteful manner). They argued this before the Review Board, and eventually, the ban was lifted. The ban was then amended to say that such products could be advertised in a "restrained and obviously inoffensive manner." Specifically, the commercial must obey the following rules before it can get by the code authority:
There may be no reference to sex, direct or implied. No men may appear in the commercial except in a group of people, and no particular man in that group may be pointed out as the product users husband or boyfriend.
Cute double entendres are strictly out (ex. "I don't sleep with dolls anymore.")
The commercial may not refer to any specific time span over which the product is effective.
Dramatizations in which a woman, by using the product, solves some social or emotional problem such as shyness etc.
These rules aren't formally written into a code, but since they say what the Code Authority will and won't challenge, they have just about the same effect as full dress amendments.
Entertainment shows were also a target of censorship. All in the Family struggled with censorship battles to change the face of American television and become one of the most successful TV series of all time. In the book, Prime Time Prime Movers by David Marc and Robert J. Thompson, they state that:
Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) was a sitcom character unlike any who had appeared before him. Liberally lacing his illiberal diatribes with complaints against "your coloreds, your Hebes, your gay homosexuals and your broads who want to take over the world."(52)
While the censors were in a heated debate over the meaning of the text, some saw All in the Family as a long needed expose of american borishness, intolorance and bigatry. Marc and Thompson also stated that:
Archie suffered the real life indignities of an erratic economy that led to layoffs, inflation, union give backs and a myriad of other distinctly non-sitcomic problems.(52)
The show brought previously forbidden words and themesthe the American TV audience and became the top rated show for five seasons in a row.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was also a target of censorship in 1969. One night, the guest on the show was longtime Communist frontier Pete Seeger. He talked about the popular subject of Vietnam from a radical point of view. Despite high viewership ratings, the show was abruptly cancelled in 1969. The team of Tom and Dick Smothers had challenged the network censors one time too often. The decisive skit, which prompted the cancellation, was, ironically, a televised spoof on censorship that the twosome had concocted to irritate CBS management. It worked too well. Later, in 1973, a Los Angeles jury awarded the Smothers brothers $776,300 in damages from the network.
Telivision Politics were also a major issue that was highly censored in 1969.
Television is the most controlled and highly censored of all mass media. For at the same time that network officials can keep off your television screen anything they find incosistant with their corporate profits or personal philosophies, the FCC has been repeditly defending their First Amendment rights against government censorship. The Commision refused to penalize radio station WBAI in New York for broadcasting an allegidly anti-semitic poem, a CBS station for telivising a "pot party", or three networks for their comments following President Nixon's Vietnam speech of November 3, 1969.
        Our system was based on the system to inform and educate people. As Thomas Jefferson said, "the way to prevent error is to give the people full information of their affairs."
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