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Coughlin Programs Face First Test Under Radio Code on Controversial Issues

Executives of the National Association of Broadcasters indicated today that the first effort to enforce the new code of ethics adopted at the association’s Atlantic City convention this week, under which sale of radio time for presentation of controversial issues is prohibited, will involve “radio priest” Charles E. Coughlin, whose Sunday programs from Royal Oak, Mich., have frequently been anti-Semitic in tenor.

The test will develop, it was stated, when Coughlin’s contracts with radio stations carrying his program expire in the Fall. The code goes into effect on Sept. 24, when standard time is resumed. Between the time Coughlin’s contracts expire and now, the radio code authority set up by the association is expected to rule on whether or not the Coughlin programs are controversial.

According to the New York Herald Tribune, in a dispatch from Atlantic City, association officials said the decision will chiefly hinge on whether the code authority decides the Coughlin speeches are religious worship programs or discussions of controversial subjects.

“If the code authority rules the speeches are controversial,” the dispatch said, “Father Coughlin will be barred from buying radio time. Stations would then undoubtedly both decrease the number of his broadcasts and deny him the Sunday afternoon program spot he now fills. They would be forced also to grant equal free time to responsible groups or individuals desiring to refute his statements.”

The Tribune said four ranking executives of the N.A.B. admitted, on questioning, that they did not see how the code authority could rule the Coughlin speeches other than controversial. Only one of seven radio broadcasters whose stations carry the Coughlin hour, the Tribune said, expressed the belief that the “radio priest’s” programs were non-controversial.

Drafters of the code voiced the belief that enforcement of the code in Coughlin’s case would sharply limit his influence on American public opinion by reducing his time on the air and making free time available for rebuttal.

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