The broadcasting industry response to my letter was generally very favorable. Although a few broadcasts [sic] viewed even this informational mailing as a veiled attempt at censorship, many felt that it raised an issue deserving of immediate attention. Top management, even in relatively small station groups, must delegate most day-to-day decisions about what's on the air to program staff. In a number of cases, senior executives wrote or told me in person that they had not been aware of the explicit nature of some of the music being played on their stations until they received my letter. Some songs they found inappropriate for their audiences were removed from their playlists, and new releases are being monitored more carefully. Through the letter itself, and through numerous articles about the letter and the reaction to it which appeared in the trade press, I believe the industry now has a higher level of sensitivity to this problem, and to the general desirability of maintaining certain levels of good taste in programming. In many cases programming changes have been made, and that will continue.
Several weeks after I sent out the letter to the group owners, we discussed the "porn rock" problem at a meeting of NAB's Executive Committee. That is the group of broadcasters elected by our Board of Directors to oversee the organization's day-to-day operations. The conclusion was that one way in which we might be able to help our members respond to the "porn rock" problem would be to ask the record companies to supply copies of the lyrics when they make new records available to broadcasters.
Thus, on May 31, 1985, I wrote to the chief executives of 45 record companies that together account for the sales of over 90 percent of the nation's records, and asked that "all recordings made available to broadcasters in the future be accompanied by copies of the songs' lyrics." I explained that we were asking for this assistance not only to help the station program directors, but also to aid station owners and managers in going through the dozens of new releases, many of them recorded in a way that makes understanding the lyrics quite difficult.
Although there was a good deal of support for this proposal among broadcasters, our friends in the recording industry were not overwhelmed by the idea. Only a handful of responses were received, and they were generally negative in tone, although one very small company did send a copy of the lyrics it had supplied with a new singles release. Most recently, the Recording Industry Association of America has formally rejected the proposal on behalf of its members, arguing both that the record companies don't always have the right to reproduce lyrics for such purposes, and that it's the responsibility of every station to know what it broadcasts.
Since NAB got involved in this issue, I and other members of our staff have been in regular contact with Tipper Gore, Susan Baker and the other leaders of the Parents Music Resource Center. We have striven to understand their concerns, and to assist them in familiarizing themselves with the workings of our industry. Last week, at the Radio '85 Management and Programming Convention in Dallas, I chaired a panel session on "porn rock" which featured a lengthy presentation by Mrs. Gore. I am pleased that Stan Gortikov, the president of RIAA, also graciously agreed to participate on that panel. I view this panel as another step in our effort to make broadcasters aware of the public concern about this issue, so that they can formulate their own response.
The FCC expects each licensee to determine what the words or lyrics on a record are before the record is broadcast, and the FCC holds each broadcast licensee responsible for what it puts on the air. But even more importantly, broadcasters are held responsible by their local communities. We are there, every day. Indeed, every hour our communities vote on how well we are doing. If our listeners and our advertisers are not pleased with us, they will turn away, in the ultimate censure of our activity.
Each station must choose for itself how best to serve its community, and not all listeners will like what every station in the marketplace has to offer. That is part of the extraordinary diversity of our industry, and that is as it should be. NAB will never attempt to intrude into any station's programming judgments. That would be improper both legally and as a matter of policy. What we have endeavored to do is to balance the need for voluntary industry restraint with a strong sensitivity to First Amendment concerns. I think this effort has been successful. Everyone in our industry now knows that there is a problem to be addressed, and that they must