Answer: FCC Commissioner Clifford Durr
Before it became the world’s longest-running network television program, Meet the Press was a radio-only ‘press conference of the air,’ beginning in 1945. Meet the Press featured radio industry journalists in a special show in May of 1947 live from Ohio, where members of the industry were gathered for the 17th Institute of Education by Radio. That day's program welcomed a government official who had more of a direct effect on the panel’s journalists than most: the Federal Communications Commission’s Clifford Durr. Durr was a distinguished lawyer who served as FCC Commissioner in the 1940s. He eventually quit the FCC, and would go on to be a prominent civil rights lawyer, famously working with Rosa Parks in later year. During his time as Commissioner, however, Durr was viewed warily by many in the radio business because of his view that the government needed to have more involvement in the regulation and programming of public radio. At the time of his MTP appearance, radio stations across the country were shaken by the FCC’s ‘Blue Book’ – a report that said public stations’ licenses could come under consideration if they did not pursue enough public interest programming and remove their ‘superfluous advertising.’ Moderator Albert Warner joked to his listeners as Meet the Press began, “You've heard already that Mr. Durr is a controversial figure, but as he sits here, he is the most peaceful-looking man ever to raise the blood pressure of a radio station operator.”
The tone of the program became more serious, as the journalists on the Meet the Press panel quizzed Durr on his oversight of radio news. Durr maintained that everything he was doing was in the interest of public radio, but the panel, particularly MTP co-founder Lawrence Spivak, continued to question whether the FCC’s oversight would develop into censorship. Spivak ended the program by challenging Durr’s belief that all views should be represented on radio: “Do you think that the stations ought to be made to give the time to Communists to express their point of view, or atheists, let us say?” Moderator Warner had to cut off the contentious exchange as the program went over its time limit. He ended by summing up the concerns of all the journalists present: “I'm sure you've made your point, Mr. Durr …The serious question is raised here again as to whether there should be continuous suggestion and control from a governmental agency or dependence upon the intelligence and self-interest of radio personnel.” You can listen to the Meet the Press radio interview with FCC Commissioner Clifford Durr in the 1947 audio clip below.
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