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° Rubrique About The World

ABOUT The World ...  

Par Claude Chastagner, professeur d'anglais à l'Université Paul Valéry à Montpellier.

  The Parent's Music Resource Center from information to censorship. 

Site Philagora, tous droits réservés ©



The most serious threat came from Louisiana, where Governor Buddy Roemer had to exert his right of veto to block the bill, acting on the advice of the PMRC's leaders who felt somewhat alarmed by what they had triggered and wanted to stress the voluntary basis of the deal. At this point, however, their action can no longer be equated to merely informing the public. The sponsors of these bills, who acknowledged their debt to the PMRC, were explicitely bent on censorship; for Pennsylvania's Rep. Ronald Gamble, 'the intent is not so much the warning labels, but to make sure the records are not sold', while the husband of one of the PMRC's members, Sen. Ernest Hollings, declared 'if I could find some way constitutionally to do  away with [explicit lyrics], I would. [I've asked] the best constitutional minds around to see if the stuff could be legally outlawed'.5

The RIAA actively opposed these bills, often by advising state governors. Thus, it was thanks to RIAA pressure that the Governor of South Carolina vetoed a bill that would have established a $1 tax on any record containing sexually explicit lyrics. Faced with the threat of legal requirements and censorship bills, the RIAA counter-attacked in 1990 by designing a new, standard warning label (the one still used today: Parental Advisory/Explicit Lyrics), and strongly advising its members to affix it on records that could be deemed controversial. However, the determination of the censors did not relent. In 1993, South Carolina, New Jersey, Arizona, Florida, Oregon and New York State, and in 1994 Missouri and Alaska were still considering legislation relying on the RIAA label as a means to determine which records had to be censored, which would have saved them the trouble of actually listening to every single album released. 

Thus, a device initially intended to warn parents was being used as an indicator for censorship. As Heins puts it, 'although the RIAA insisted that its label did not mean music stores should refuse to sell certain recordings to minors, the warning was simply too tempting and convenient a shortcut for censors' (p.90). She quotes an RIAA official disagreeing with the use of the label as a method for law enforcement officials to prohibit the sale of material to minors who had bitterly commented: 'For now, that has been the effect' (p.91).

The immediate fallout of resorting to labeling was what is called the 'chill factor'. The label 'Explicit Lyrics' becoming synonymous with obscenity, several major retail chains (Camelot Music & Video, Sears, J.C. Penney, Disc Jockey, etc.) decided they would no longer carry labeled records. Others such as Trans World, Tower, Musicland, Waterloo, Record Bar or Sound Exchange declared that despite the absence of legislation they would not sell these records to minors, requiring proof of age from their customers and making their employees responsible if records were found to have been sold to minors. For example, in a memo sent from the headquarters on April 20, 1992, Super Club required its local managers to check pronouncements from local judges and district attorneys and remove from display albums intended to be prosecuted as well as restrict their sale to minors.


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° Rubrique About The World