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Gianna Alfanno
Ms. Brandi Bradley
ENC 2135
February 24, 2016

College Radio Vs Censorship
When thinking of college radio, people tend to picture it as a place where “kids play at
being broadcasters”. In reality, student broadcasting stations are much more powerful and
effective on society than a person could believe. College radio attracts listeners, both inside and
outside their respective university’s community, with its diverse and individual style and
freeform radio format. In comparison to commercial broadcasting, student radio is
noncommercial, more informal and far less mainstream. Throughout the years, it has become an
important business; “it’s the breeding ground for the new talent and the lifeblood of the
independent record industry” (Sauls, 74). In addition, it is a great source information, ideas and
opinions. Furthermore, taken as serious as any other major broadcasting station, college radio is
also licensed and regulated by national governments. The Federal Communications Commission
is the United States’ media regulator and lists the majority of the student radio stations across the
nation. As per usual, with regulations come obstacles. College radio communities recurrently
face issues in regards to the FCC, such as censorship, which is known as the practice of
inspecting a composition and suppressing unacceptable parts. This is where two sides of the
situation clash: society’s safety against freedom of expression.
Initially, college radio stations emerged as an experimental station for electrical
engineering and other physical science departments on campus. As soon as it began operating,

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other departments became interested and wanted access to this innovative electronic tool,
especially the speech, journalism and extension departments. These radio stations were seen as
an effective branch of their teaching process, for which they began to deepen the profession of
broadcasting. At first, the audience was given little thought; it was more about serving as a
working laboratory for students’ use. Later on, some universities even began to use their radio
stations for strict educational or instructional purposes, as they would broadcast some of their
courses. Today, some of these tendencies still remain, but above all, their emphasis is to serve
their respective audience with the information they need and most importantly, the entertainment
they demand and expression they crave. With the advancement of technology, college radio
broadcasting now comes in various forms, such as the AM and FM radio station and the online
radio. This means the audience is larger and more diversified, so in order to follow their purpose
they must create more and different types of programs. A bigger audience helps the community
raise more awareness, build a greater support based on shared interests and can encourage them
to discuss certain topics.
When it comes to college radio, Florida State University does not stay behind. WVFS,
“The Voice of Florida State”, is FSU’s own FM radio station. It is an affiliated project of the
university’s Student Government Association and the College of Communication and
Information. This station, commonly referred to as V89, operates a non-commercial, educational
public radio broadcasting for twenty-four hours a day, the whole entire year. Not only does it
provide terrestrial broadcast, but a worldwide web stream as well.
This community is composed by up to 200 dedicated volunteers, mainly students and few
faculty, whom divide into various departments like production, public relations, development,
news, music, sports, and many more. They all work together to complete their main mission:

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“provide diversity in programming to the Florida State campus and Tallahassee community while
acting as a top-notch training facility for students and community members interested in gaining
experience in radio station operations” (WVFS). Furthermore, WVFS promotes and informs
listeners of campus and community news and activities, while also offering the latest in global
news, sports, literature and comedy. In regards to music, WVFS promotes variety and openmindedness. Their daily playlists may vary from jazz, hip-hop, reggae, metal, blues, pop, club,
rock, Hispanic, folk and even classical. **Will add examples of their programming once
interview is done**
Radio broadcasting in general has become not only one of the country’s largest industries,
but also a medium of great social influence. And as the influence of radio grows, so does its
caution. Ever since its beginnings, as military use, there have been petitions for federal
intervention in the field in order to ensure safety and public good for the American society.
Consequently, many regulating acts were made, leading to the creation of the first Federal Radio
Commission in 1927, which seven years later became the Federal Communications Commission.
To this day, in the United States, no radio broadcasting station may operate without first
obtaining a license from the FCC. The Communications Act of 1934 grants the FCC the power
of censorship and consequently, to take action like revoking a station license or fining them for
the violation of standards. Among these regulations, it is stated that radio stations are prohibited
from airing material that is obscene, indecent, profane or otherwise offensive. This clearly affects
the communities behind this type of mass media. Other consequences radio stations might face
because of censorship can be to have the anchor, talk host or disc jockey fired, the programming
canceled or inclusively, the station completely deleted from the airwaves.

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Despite its liberal character, college radios are not exempt of censorship nor have it
easier. “Although these regulatory agencies were needed by radio broadcasting in general, they
held no sympathy for the educational radio stations” (Grant, 16). Student radio programming is
being affected by the FCC. For example, after having her program censored, a student general
manager from the University of Idaho’s KUOI-FM complained: “they are trying to censor us. …
They are making it criminal to play music; to read poetry on the air; to read literature” (Sauls,
69). The FCC is basically making decisions as to what constitutes proper artistic expression in
the eyes of society.
Members of this community do not agree with the measures the Federal Communications
Commission are taking upon censorship. Nor do they agree with the FCC’s perception of what
music or programs are good or bad for the community. Their perspective of this situation is that
they are cutting out, limiting their creativity and expression, when that is what college radio is
about. College is a place of self-discovery and exploration; of embracing passions and opinions.
College radio communities works to enhance that and ergo believe that their broadcasting should
not be limited or banned. What is striking about college radio stations is how liberal it is; how it
focuses on art and doesn’t limit their content to popularity. Strict censorship in a way cuts their
wings; it hinders college radio from being itself.
Other freeform stations have gotten into trouble after falling into loose procedures or
used their “freedom” to broadcast obscenity. For example, the FCC found WXPN-FM, the
University of Pennsylvania’s student radio, guilty of broadcasting “licentious slime and
nauseating verbiage” (Motavalli and Fedorka, 25). A second example could be the situation at
WGTB-FM, from Georgetown University, when they were taken off for a time after citing two
examples of programs considered intolerable: series of public service announcements for a

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Washington abortion clinic, and music and comedy material containing “sensitive language”
(Motavalli and Fedorka, 25). In these cases, the members of the community were conscious of
the FCC’s standards and recognize the had violated them. In cases like these, it is clear how
censorship can prevent children or teens from being exposed to compositions that support or
promote wrong doings; Or to the exposure of drugs, sex and violence. Censorship in the radio is
led by the fear by the authorities of the young generations will be affected negatively with what
is being broadcasted and thus will not achieve a morally acceptable life.
On the other hand, censorship can also become controversial as to society. Some of the
arguments which could support the denial of censorship to the media is that it can contribute to
closed-mindedness. “Such policies exert tremendous force in the molding of public opinion on
controversial topics and may hinder considerably the spread of opposing points of view”
(Columbia, 447). The Federal Communications Commission is controlling what radio listeners
hear and what is denied to them. It can sometimes guarantee public safety and morals, but at the
same time it is contradicting the United State’s First Amendment that promises freedom of press.
“In broadcasting, however, as in other forms of expression, legal restrictions of varying degrees
of formality result in something less than complete freedom of speech” (Columbia, 448). It
prevents college radio members or artists from conveying the message that they want to get
through to their listeners.
Those outside the community of college radio are communicated about this issue via TV
news, radio news, newspapers or online articles. Some of these people view censorship in
college radio as useless and ridiculous. Usually because they expect college radio to be a
medium of free speech. *Will expand*

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The most common way of handling this issue within the community is with selfregulation. “Self-regulation in the radio field has arisen in part out of a sense of public duty and
in part out of a desire to promote good will by offending as few as possible” and private
restraints have been developed in order to avoid increased government regulation and to assure
compliance with existing government standards” ( Harvard, 1225) Every broadcaster has
responsibilities and ethics associated with his programming: “Broadcasters know what they
should be responsible to the people they serve, present news and public affairs programs
factually and unbiased and give the audience what they need as well as what they want. (Grant,
75).
College radio is a great way of getting a voice and opinion to be heard throughout the
land. But sometimes, this way of opening to the audience can cause the community a problem.
The Federal Communications Commission’s power of censorship can halt the members of this
community from achieving their goal, which is to provide an alternative to the commercially
driven world of radio; a unique source of a new and diverse content. At times certain censorship
incidents are agreeable for the college radio community; since they are ensuring the society’s
safety. But at other times, it challenges the community and causes a bigger problem.

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Works Cited
Brant, Billy G. The College Radio Handbook. 1st ed. ed. Blue Ridge Summit, Pa: TAB Books,
1981. Print.
Coase, R. H. "The Federal Communications Commission." The Journal of Law & Economics 2
(1959): 1-40. Print.
McCarty, Harold B. "The Role of the College Radio Station." The Phi Delta Kappan 21.7
(1939): 339-44. Print.
"Morality and the Broadcast Media: A Constitutional Analysis of Fcc Regulatory
Standards." Harvard law review 84.3 (1971): 664. Print.
Motavalli, Jim, and Michael Fedorka. "Liberated Radio—A do-it-Yourself Guide." The Radical
Teacher.13 (1979): 23-7. Print.
"Radio Censorship and the Federal Communications Commission." Columbia law review 39.3
(1939): 447-59. Print.
"Radio Regulation and Freedom of the Air." Harvard law review 54.7 (1941): 1220-8. Print.
Sauls, Samuel J. The Culture of American College Radio. 1st ed. ed. Ames: Iowa State
University Press, 2000. Print.
---. "The Role of Alternative Programming in College Radio." Studies in Popular Culture 21.1
(1998): 73-81. Print.

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Thompson, Patrick. "Broadcasting as Marketplace Or Academy: How the Federal
Communications Commission can Save College Radio Note." George Washington Law
Review 82 (2013-2014): [i]-594. Print.