Music censorship is a way to reduce, and restrict, the free access to any musical work. The reason behind the censorship of a song may be due to moral, religious, military or political censors. The kind of censorship may range from government enforced prohibition to the private or voluntary removal of music, or its content; with the latter being shown through the music edits which take place before a song is aired on the radio.
The reason behind the concept of music censorship may be due to its allowance for freedom of expression. Artists are able to express a variety of ideas, emotions, hopes, aspirations and cultural identities; any of which may be offensive to certain communities. There is also the fact that the ideas expressed in the music may be in conflict with the regime, and the ideas they propagate.
The History Of Music Censorship
Music censorship has dated back to the beginning of the twentieth century, and throughout this time the both the rules and the regulations concerning it have changed.
The 1927 Radio Act was enacted by the American Congress, and was used to control the broadcasted content. It prohibited the use of any language that was considered to be obscene, profane or indecent.
In 1934 The US Congress established the Federal Communication Commission which was tasked with monitoring international communications present in the media. They were in charge of all music that has been played from 1934 to present day. Since their establishment they have added to the variety of laws which prohibit the playing of music and are the reason that music censorship is utilized so heavily today.
The FCC has been a topic of much debate, as people try to understand their motives for music censorship. An example of instances where they invoked their powers of censorship was In 1952, when they blacklisted a folk band for their leftists political opinions, using their influence to ruin a bands popularity. Then in 1957, they filmed Elvis Presley from the waist up on the Ed Sullivan show, due to his inappropriate dance moves.
Music censorship has become even more prominent since the 1950’s with the increasingly carefree attitude that artists have adopted and involvement in both sexual activities and drugs. In the 1960’s the lyrical content in music began to be heavily censored; with the imprisonment of Jim Morrision and the doors due to an issue of indecent exposure and their obscenity. The BBC was also heavily involved in censorship during this time, as they reacted to the Beatles and their experimentation with drugs which became evident in their lyrics.
The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was also established in 1985 whose aim was to restrict their children’s accessibility to albums that contain sexual content or explicit lyrics. Their effect led many to change their albums, creating both clean and explicit versions, as is evident today.
Music censorship has a long history behind it, heavily dominated by concern for children and political motivations.