The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House, Westminster, London and it is the world’s oldest national broadcasting organization. Since the BBC emerged as the ultimate source of moral guidance for the radio landscape, the organisation has always struggled to define what should be allowed on the airwaves, and what shouldn’t
There is a dark side to their censorship of thr song “Grace.” The song and the heroes of the Easter Rising mean a great deal to many Irish and Irish Americans. Kilmainham Jail in Dublin is now a museum and a visit there and to the chapel where Grace and Joseph wed is a harrowing experience. The heroes of the Easter Rising, Kilmainham Jail and yes, even the song “Grace” is an important and meaningful part of our history and it is a slap in the face for the BBC to attempt to censor our history.
Additionally, Jerusalem is a British national song based on a poem by Willi Blake printed in 1808. At the heart of the poem is the contrast between the harmonious, peaceful society Blake aspired to and the crushing reality of the rapid industrial transformation of his natural world. The drummer of the prog rock group E.L.P. said, “Jerusalem” was recorded by us, and it was banned immediately by the BBC. We thought it was an unbelievable piece of music.. It was so grand, it was so English, and it was absolutely perfect for the voice.”
Sometimes, the songs that have been censored by the BBC over the years have been perfectly innocent, leaving listeners to wonder why they were removed at all. Other times, tunes with a clear political message have been silenced based entirely on the organisations fear of what might happen if music was allowed to enrage and engage the masses. There are also plenty of banned songs throughout history that were removed from radio shows for no other reason than they weren’t “decent” enough at the time.
This was not just happening in Britain. In 1927, the United States of America’s Congress enacted the The Radio Act of 1927, which was used as a way for the government to control the content that was being broadcasted. The Radio Act prohibited the use of obscene, indecent or profane language through the air. This was first used to fine a radio station in 1970, fifty-three years after the Act was passed, because of a reference to sex. Then, in 1934, congress created the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to monitor international communications through radio, television, etc. Since their creation, not only have they added to the laws prohibiting music play, but they are also directly involved with censoring it themselves. .
The FCC was allowed to ban ‘indecent’ songs. However, there was nothing specific as to what indecent meant. This vagueness provided ample opportunity for the commission to manipulate radio stations. The men running the FCC certainly weren’t crazy about the music coming out in the 1960s The commission pressured stations through red tape, warnings, fines, and even jail time. These allowed them to avoid shutting down stations while controlling what they played.
Music is an art form, and, as with any free expression, it often leads to controversy. Though many of us might be accustomed to hearing plenty of risqué tracks on the radio, there are still plenty of songs that were banned from television, radio, stores, and even countries because the lyrics were deemed “too controversial.”