GARCIA'S 'SHIT' IS POISON, FCC RULES
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The FCC, newly-toughened watchdog for the public interest, convenience, necessity, and morality, has ruled that Jerry Garcia was "obscene" on radio and slapped a fine on an educational FM station for broadcasting an interview with him.
This despite the fact that the FCC received not so much as one complaint from a listener about the show, aired on WUHY-FM in Philadelphia on Sunday night, January 4th.
The decision, handed down April 3rd on a 4-2 vote, says a lot of things for the first time, and, if it stands unchallenged, it may well affect other small stations, in the worst ways.
WUHY was shot down for a show called Cycle II, a one-hour show described by the station as "concerned with the avant-garde movement in music, publications, art, film, personalities, and other forms of social and artistic experimentation."
The January 4th show featured a taped interview of Jerry Garcia, recorded in Garcia's hotel room in New York the day before.
In its decision ("Notice of Apparent Liability"), the Commission charged that "his comments were frequently interspersed with the words 'fuck' and 'shit,' used as adjective, or simply as an introductory expletive or substitute for the phrase 'et cetera.'"
The FCC listed examples:
"I must answer the phone 900 fuckin' times a day, man.
"Right, and it sucks it right fucking out of ya, man.
"That kind of shit.
"It's fuckin' rotten, man. Every fuckin' year.
"...and all that shit...
"...and shit like that..."
However, in an appendix to the decision, larger quotes were cited, making clear that the "patently offensive" words, as the FCC called them, were hardly noticeable. The subject was ecology:
"For example, I have friends who I've known since like they started college, you know, and like now it's eight years later and they're all called Ph.Ds - stuff like that. It's just coming out in those terms... I know quite a few of these people who have switched their major in the last year to Ecology and that kind of shit, because it's like really important right now. It's a big emergency going on. Okay, so - and their approach to it is generally to get together on the level of bodies of influence - that is to say, governmental shit, you know, things like that business and so forth, and stuff like that."
This kind of rap, the FCC ruled, is "patently offensive to millions of listeners." Shit...
The FCC fixed a $100 "forfeiture" on WUHY for the crime, citing its obscenity statutes. Specifically, the FCC called the broadcasted material "indecent," using the argument that if Garcia was allowed to say "shit" without penalty, then Top 40 jocks could start saying things like "listen to this motherfucker" (FCC's example). This was, the Commission noted, the first time a station was being punished for violating obscenity laws, rather than the usual "not adhering to its stated policies."
The FCC wouldn't have known about the Garcia interview except for having received letters about Cycle's immediate predecessor, Feed, a hip-oriented one-hour show that ran on Sunday nights for a year and a half until last November. The FCC didn't notify WUHY of any complaints, but instead chose to monitor the station instead. In effect, the Commission, sitting in Washington listening to an aircheck, decided "community standards" for Philadelphia and WUHY's audience. [. . . .]
[WUHY manager Mason Shaw said the station] "would have responded to listener complaints or inquiries about this. But there were none."
(by Ben Fong-Torres, from Rolling Stone, April 30 1970) - excerpt
A few paragraphs not concerning Garcia were omitted.ReplyDelete
I wonder if Garcia was a bit disgruntled with his New York visit during this interview...the brief quotes sure sound crabby!
As far as I know, no tape of the interview survives. But it's interesting that the FCC transcribed it (and even included some "larger quotes" in their decision), so perhaps a copy of it is still sitting in the FCC or WUHY archives somewhere!
I'm reminded of a frequent occurrence in ancient history, when a lost book is known only by the brief random quotes from it by other authors, and we have to reconstruct what it was about from the quotes...
With that in mind, this was a pretty funny little portrait of Garcia, for me.
And I'm still waiting for radio DJs to say "listen to this motherfucker!"
A Reuters News Service story from the Miami News, 4/6/70:ReplyDelete
AN FCC FIRST: STATION FINED FOR OBSCENITY
WASHINGTON - Philadelphia radio station WUHY-FM has been fined $100 by the U.S. government because of an interview program in which four-letter words were used.
The fine was the first ever imposed by the Federal Communications Commission for alleged obscenity. The commission said it was making a test case of its authority to control obscenity on the air.
It invited review by the courts "in order that the scope of the agency's authority to act in this sensitive area may be definitely established."
The fine was levied against the educational station after a program called "Cycle-Two" was broadcast Jan. 4.
It featured a tape-recorded interview with Jerry Garcia, leader of the musical group known as "The Grateful Dead." The commission also cited live comments by a person known as "Crazy Max."
In its statement, the FCC warned that if this type of programming became widespread, "no one could ever know, in home or car listening, when he or his children would encounter what he would regard as the most vile expressions, serving no purpose but to shock, and to pander to sensationalism."
The story was widely reported in papers, but I think just in brief pieces like this that didn't actually quote anything!
The case was cited in the recent textbook Electronic Media Law and Regulation:
"In 1970, WUHY-FM, a student-run noncommercial station, broadcast a taped interview with Jerry Garcia... Garcia was joined by an individual known only as 'Crazy Max.' Garcia discussed music, politics, and philosophy, and presented his opinions on the state of society. Crazy Max warned that computers would soon take over society. Throughout the interview, Garcia used numerous expletives...his comments were frequently interspersed with the words 'fuck' and 'shit' used as adjectives or simply as stand-alone introductions to a phrase.
"In response to complaints to the FCC, WUHY argued that the Garcia interview dealt with important topics of the day and because the program was designed to reach an 'underground' audience, Garcia's language was acceptable. The Commission disagreed:
'The issue in this case is not whether WUHY-FM may present the views of Mr. Garcia or 'Crazy Max' on ecology, society, computers, and so on... The licensee [has a] right to present provocative or unpopular programming which may offend some listeners... Rather the narrow issue is whether the licensee may present previously taped interview or talk shows where the persons intersperse or begin their speech with expressions like, "Shit man," "and shit like that," or "900 fucking times," "right fucking out of ya," etc... If WUHY can broadcast an interview with Mr. Garcia where he begins sentences with "Shit, man" or uses "fucking" before word after word, just because he talks that way, so also can any other person on radio. Newscasters or disc jockeys could use the same expressions, as could other persons...on the grounds that that is the way they talk and it adds flavor and emphasis to their speech. But...these expressions are patently offensive to millions of listeners.'"
Fortunately, the FCC's court decision is online, with more details of the broadcast:ReplyDelete
"On January 4, 1970, WUHY-FM broadcasted its weekly program "Cycle II" from 10.00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M. This broadcast featured an interview with one Jerry Garcia... The interview was recorded on tape in Mr. Garcia's hotel room in New York City on Saturday afternoon, January 3, 1970... During the interview, about 50 minutes in length...Mr. Garcia expressed his views on ecology, music, philosophy, and interpersonal relations... His comments were frequently interspersed with the words "fuck" and "shit"... Examples are:
I must answer the phone 900 fuckin' times a day, man.
Right, and it sucks it right fucking out of ya, man.
That kind of shit.
It's fuckin' rotten man. Every fuckin' year.
...and all that shit -- all that shit.
...and shit like that.
...so fucking long.
Everybody knows everybody so fucking well that...
Shit. I gotta get down there, man.
All that shit.
Readily available every fucking where.
Any of that shit either.
Political change is so fucking slow.
"At the conclusion of the Garcia interview, Mr. Hill presented a person known as "Crazy Max", whose real name is not known... "Crazy Max" had been a visitor to the station, and he told Hill, while listening to the Garcia interview, that if there were time left in the program he wanted to make some remarks about computers and society. There was a short period left, and "Crazy Max" delivered his message, which also used the word "fuck"... Mr. Hill did not know what "Crazy Max" was going to say in detail, or how he was going to say it... "Crazy Max" will not be allowed access to the microphone again."
Excerpts from licensee's letter of February 12, 1970:Delete
"...During the interview, Mr. Garcia expressed his views on ecology, music, philosophy, and interpersonal relations. Some of Mr. Garcia's comments on these subjects are set forth below:
The problem essentially...the basic problem is how can you live on the planet earth without wreckin' it, right?
... like you know a couple of weeks ago...the headline was in the paper that there was no more clean air in the United States, period. Yeah, and it's like uh that kind of stuff is all of a sudden comin' up real fast. You know, and it's like it looks like that's the most important thing going on and that nothing else is as important as that as far as I know, that is the most important thing.
For example, like uh I have friends who I've known since like they started college, you know, and like now it's eight years later and you know, and they're all Ph.Ds--stuff like that. It's just coming out in those terms, uh, I know quite a few of these people who have switched their major in the last year to Ecology and that kind of shit, because it's like really important right. It's a big emergency going on Okay, so--and their approach to it is generally to get together on the level of bodies of influence--that is to say, governmental shit, you know, things like that business and so forth, and stuff like that.
But the big thing is that it's really super, you know--it's...it's...it definitely looks bad outside man, When you fly over New York, it looks fuckin' rotten, man, but it's like that way every fuckin' where, man, you know, and like I'm from San Francisco, man, and there wasn't like five or six years ago when it was like the sky was blue, crystal clear, you know; you know and that whole thing that you hardly ever see any more, man--you know you just hardly ever see it any more.
What I'd really love to do would be live on a perfect, peaceful earth and devote all my time to music. But I can't do it man, because you just can't do that. You know, I mean it's a...there's a more important thing going on, that's all.
Politics is a form and music is a form and they're both ways of dealing with people, man. When you play music with people, though, you're not attacking them, you know. It isn't, it's not a competition between the two of you or the four of you or the seven of you, or however many of you. There are--it's like a cooperative effort which gets everybody high, so like...that's of course the thing that's really a great trip about music. It's really a great thing. It's really a good trip, right, and uh so like the things that I've wanted to see happen and lots of other people you know it's like some way of getting people together to do things but having it be like music and not like business and not like politics, you know, uh just because that's a uh high watermark in a way. I mean it seems like people should be able to do that.
If you get together with four or five people and produce something that's greater than yourself you know, and that also doesn't only reflect your attitude, but it's like a little closer to the center because it has to do with more perceptions than your own and like for a plan to work, I think, it has to be approached on those kinds of levels and those kind of terms because uh it won't work if uh this is a planet full of people, each of whom is in a universe of his own. Everybody has to agree to give a little, and so forth, and so on."