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This paper will focus on the investigation of the radio program named Lights outs that aired on a local radio station belonging to the National Broadcasting Cooperation from 1934 to 1947 (Obler 92). It was based on supernatural and horror events that were meant to boost ratings and give listeners an opportunity at a different show to listen to at a time when most of the competitive stations played music. The idea was envisioned by Wyllis Cooper of a show about a mystery serial that aired at midnight and was aimed at giving the listeners a dramatic show that appealed to their imagination. This concept was later dropped for a more criminal thrillers and supernatural format. It proved quite a catch with the viewers and by the time Cooper was leaving the station it had garnered a fan base of about 600. The stories told were of agruesome nature fused with clever wit and humor. The story would have the characters having being buried alive, eaten alive, burnt with hot steel and other hair raising incidences meant to trigger the imagination of the listener and keep them glued to hear more.
Although not the first time the station had tried to introduce a drama/horror segment in the station, nothing had come to the gruesome content that was being screened on a regular basis at the ‘witching hour’. Many of cooper’s stories still exist and are some of the less blood curling storiesare at times rebroadcast. His stories were froma wide range of topics and even had some famous Christmas stories such as the three men, uninhabited and a Christmas story were some of his lesser frightening scripts which were aired after the First World War.
While the station’s horror segment had faithful following that saw them switch each night to listen to new stories each more gruesome than the next. However, this was not the case for all the listeners some who took fault with the type of information being allowed to air at the station. With some of the stories being of horrifying nature they said that it was not appropriate for the station to allow such content to be aired on their airwaves. Such is the claim that was made by a concerned citizen named Eugene Koneke from New York in November 03rd, 1938 to the Federal Communications Commission. He, like many others who wrote to the FCC gave several reasons as to why he thought the station had gone above board in their attempt at gaining more followers and beating their competition.
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Many of the concerns highlighted included that the content was very gruesome and it instilled fear in the listeners given the time at which the show aired at midnight. For many of those who were of delicate hearts and those who scared easy were at risk of health problemsespecially of the heart. The incidences being depicted were so gruesome in detail and would cause a chill to any listener. Called a nightmare by some of those who presented their complaints, they said that it caused lack of sleep to those who couldn’t stand the horrific scenes being described by the radio host accompanied by the very effective sound tracks.
In their defense some of those who took part in the script writing said that it was meant at engaging the public and tapping into the creative minds of their fan club (Dunning 78). Chicago was one of the more creative capitals for theaters and other productions and this was one of the avenues. It had brought something new and exciting to radio that gave the viewer’s something other than the usual drab music and topics that at times did not appeal to the listeners. The show had a unique format in which it is the dead characters who told their tales and their experiences on the other side, what they thought of their family and friends, something that not even the vest flash back of a movie could achieve. It was a revolution on radio production as it were. The concerns continued to trickle in to the FCC and the station was taken to task about censoring the material they aired. When the station was taken to a more national platform the stories took a watering down and the grisly content was somewhat brought down. It then took to airing half an hour before to keep most people from waiting up at night to catch the show epic stories.
For many who presented their complaints to the FCC, they requested for the censorship on the content that was being let to run on air. Whereas a newspaper article could be kept in storage to be used a s evidence, a radio program did not have the same shelf life back then as it does today. The advancement in technology has given the media a harder time of ensuring their content is proper due to the diverse audience they attract. In today’s mainstream media, censorship especially in the diverse culture we are now living I and the real time technology that has been offered. Even children will have access to content that is injurious to them both socially and psychologically.
Censorship is the strict review of material and content by a legal institution and this review is conducted in an effort to ensure that the material is not derogatory in any manner. It is done this in an effort not to have it altered in its appearance (Goldberg 104).
With the question of whether radio stations should be censored? Where is the line drawn on the right to free speech? The public needs to be protected against harmful content that is meant at sawing their point of view. For those who are against censorship give a simple solution, if you fell offended at what is being said, simply change the channel. According to them the more security is influenced on the running of a radio stations and programs, the more we lose out on the freedom and the right to free speech. It has been the case in many Islamic countries that have been denied the right to free speech and have censorship up to and including access to the internet.
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Those who are for the censorship of radio believe such institutions such as the FCC believe that some kind order should be observed to refrain some cynical persons for taking the freedom they enjoy too far by giving false information. It has been seen countless times the effects of false information used to sway public opinion. Many of the type of media we are exposed to is the reflection of our lives and when we allow derogatory and what society considers to be indecent behavior it will turn society into one without morals and indecent. Censorship when conducted in a fair manner aims at limiting any conflicts that will rise from racial remarks, and other religious slurs that will cause feelings of hatred.
It will mean that persons exposed to these contents will feel more secure and will not be afraid that their children may be exposed to improper material. As long as a government institution or any other group charged with the responsibility of censorship does this in a free and fair manner and does no abuse the power they have been given.