Fifty years ago today, a San Francisco Municipal Court judge ruled that Allen Ginsberg's Beat-era poem "Howl" was not obscene. Yet today, a New York public broadcasting station decided not to air the poem, fearing that the Federal Communications Commission will find it indecent and crush the network with crippling fines.
Another irony: WBAI, the Pacifica Foundation station in New York that plans to post "Howl" online, is the same station that took on the FCC more than 30 years ago over the right to air George Carlin's comedy routine featuring the "seven dirty words." The challenge led to a 1978 Supreme Court decision governing what naughty words can be broadcast and when.
WBAI won't broadcast "Howl," even between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the hours the FCC has cordoned off for rougher language. WBAI program director Bernard White fears that the FCC will fine the station $325,000 for every one of Ginsberg's dirty-word bombs. If each Pacifica station that aired the poem - and possibly repeated it - were to be fined for airing "Howl," it could mean millions of dollars in fines.
The show they wouldn't air is on their web site.
Update: I've turned off comments on this because I honestly don't give a shit about the opinions of the drooling morons who feel the need to explain to me how this is all perfectly ok, or how "radio" or "speech" or "non-satellite radio" are somehow less deserving of First Amendment protection than is "print", or how it wasn't "really" censorship because the radio station decided not to broadcast it and get fined out of existence. You certainly have a right to these opinions (isn't democracy ironic?) but I still think you're a moron and don't want to waste any more of my time arguing with you, so fuck off.