Monday, February 16, 2009


The Encyclopedia of Radio and TV Broadcasting was printed in 1967. It was authored by none other than Robert St. John of NBC and the Career Academy School of Famous Broadcasters. The book is part history book, part reference book, and part technique manual. But both halves are very dated. The history stops with the coverage of Sputnik. The coverage of technique is fairy solid even today for news/talk but the section on Automation refers to the AP wire and tape. Most interesting was a short list under the Supervision and Ethics section:
"At certain times on certain stations in certain parts of the country the following subjects have been considered too hot to handle and a ban was in effect, at least locally, on any mention of them on the air: Astrology, Adam & Eve, Beds, Blood, Birth Control, Chiropractic, Female Legs, Father Coughlin, Family Planning, Fortune Telling, Goat Glands, Hard Liquor, Infections, Kingfish Long, Monks, Narcotics, Pregnancy, the Pope, Rabbis, Sex, Stomach, Townsend Plan, Wetbacks, WCTU.
By modern standards essentially none of these are offensive. I actually had to look some of those up. Some of the names I knew, Father Coughlin was a pro-fascist broadcaster, very radical and controversial. WCTU was the Women's Christian Temperance Union a group that crusaded for prohibition. Kingfish Long, is Huey "Kingfish"Long, the radical populist governor of New Orleans 1928-1932. Goat Glands is a reference to John Brinkley a nutty electrician that advertised the surgical implantation of goat glands into men to cure impotence.

Strangest of all was the Townsend Plan, a program considered during the great depression. Named for Dr. Francis E. Townsend, the plan would have structured a pension for unemployed senior citizens. The plan didn't pass, but was the idea that led to the social security act of 1935. The only difference between it and the plan that did pass was the source of revenue. Townsend's plan derived income from a 2% sales tax, Social Security from income the tax. I'm not sure how that was ever offensive...