October 30, 2010

FCC Chairman Frank McNinch in 1938 - mere mention of his name caused an outbreak of cold sweats.

Back when the FCC was . . .well, the FCC, Chairman Frank McNinch wielded a rather heavy club when it came to enforcing codes, pulling licenses and posting fines.To say he went overboard in a few places was probably an understatement - the most famous being his feud with NBC over an episode of a variety program featuring then-sex siren Mae West in a double entendre laced skit on the subject of Adam and Eve. NBC nearly lost its license to broadcast and Frank McNinch was a man to be feared. Much the same way Will Hays reeked havoc with the film industry, McNinch was a strict enforcer of morality - sometimes to the point of absurdity.

But that was the FCC back then, brought about as the result of a public communications medium in its infancy which ran the very real risk of abuse and manipulation. That was 1938. And this was Frank McNinch:

Frank McNinch: “For most of us, radio has become a vital part of our daily lives. It grows more and more important every day. Yet a host of questions surround it about which few persons altogether agree. There is not even unanimity about the value of radio as we have it today. There are millions who love it for the entertainment value and its accomplishments, which, so short a time ago, we would have called miraculous. They smile indulgently at its imperfections. Many others decry it, complain loudly and bitterly of its being too often trivial and ineffective, or that it is being abused or misused.”

Certainly a far cry from how it is today; a deregulated, ransacked shell of its former self. Sometimes things go from one extreme to the other before a semblance of balance comes about. Perhaps that's wishful thinking.

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