Radio, Television and Society

By Charles A. Siepmann | Go to book overview

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH: IN PRACTICE

How do the principles we have discussed apply to radio? Who is free to say what over the air? Practical questions are best answered with reference to practical situations, so let us now examine some actual incidents in which this question of free speech has arisen. For convenience let us divide the question into two parts, discussing (1) the proper freedom of the licensee and (2) the freedom of private citizens or groups to secure access to a microphone and, once there, to say what they think fit.


1. FREEDOM OF THE LICENSEE

The major controversy that has arisen has reference to the right of radio licensees to 'editorialize' over the air-that is, to use their facilities to plead for causes or bespeak a point of view as does a newspaper in its editorial columns. This brings us to our first exhibit-the FCC's famous 'Mayflower Decision' issued in 1941.1


The Mayflower Decision

For some years prior to 1941 a station in Boston (WAAB) owned by the Mayflower Broadcasting Corporation had been

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1
For excerpts from the Commission's revised ruling on its previous Mayflower Decision and for the dissenting opinion of Commissioner Hennock, see Appendix IV.

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