Censorship in Music
When listening to the radio, most people come across a song that has been changed from its original version, whether certain words are beeped out, or a string of lyrics are replaced altogether. This is censorship, and it is very common on the radio. It is also very controversial. People don’t agree what should be censored or if anything should be censored at all. However, we believe that censorship is a good thing. Censorship allows offensive music to be altered so that it is not offensive anymore. It also prevents younger children from being exposed to harsh and inappropriate content in a society where access to music is growing. The positives of censorship outweigh the negatives by far. What is Censorship?
Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication that may be considered harmful or sensitive to people as determined by a government or the media. Censorship of music is when free access to musical works is banned. This censorship may come from a series of motivations such as moral, political, religious, or obscenity reasons. Music censorship first began in the early 1940’s when rock and R&B began to challenge traditional values. “Sex and drugs were no longer hidden and secretive but something to be exposed and celebrated.” (Gross 126) People thought that rock and R&B had corrupted the young minds of America. In 1955, the first 30 songs were banned, many of them by black artists. Then in the 1970’s not only music, but also music videos were also being banned. Heavy metal was targeted for expressing too much violence in the music. Music videos performed by black artists were also not aired on television. The first music video by a black artist to appear on MTV was Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. (Baker 9) These efforts to censor black music and music videos were claimed as racism. Incidents involving black-oriented rap music have occurred more than white-oriented hard rock music. Then again, rap music may be censored more often because it contains more offensive material. “None of these music-related claims have been popularly accepted, largely due to the difficulty in providing tangible proof.” (Epstein 67)
If you were turn on the radio today you could definitely find a song that has been censored. The media usually targets the profanity and obscenity in today’s pop songs, finding different techniques to censor the musician’s ideas and imagery in a song. A very common form of censorship is blanking. Blanking is basically when the music is muted for the swear word or bad phrase. Bleeping is very similar but instead of muting, it plays a noise like a ‘beep’ over the word. Since bleeping and blanking tend to make the song sound unappealing, radio broadcasters like to replace the word with a more appropriate choice. For example, the original lyrics in Cole Porter’s song stated: “I get no kick from cocaine” and the cleaned up version was: “I get perfume from Spain.” (Lombardi 1991) The new version completely changes the meaning of the original lyrics, which is a downside to censorship. Other forms of censorship of music is resampling, resigning, skipping, echo, distorting, repeating, or RoboVoicing. RoboVoicing is making the word non-understandable by overpowering a robotic voice effect. These forms can sometimes totally confound the purpose of the song, making it nonsense. Incidents with Radio Censorship
One example when a radio station had a problem with censorship occurred on May 17th 2001 in Portland, Oregon. The KBOO radio station was fined $7,000 because of the playing of Sarah Jones’ “Your Revolution”. The FCC, an organization designed to make sure appropriate things are aired on the radio, stated that the song contained profane sexual references that were meant to “pander and shock” also because it contained language about sexual organs, which is considered indecent speech. ("The FCC, Radio & Censorship”)
Another example, that received more attention...
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