Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs New York City
March 21, 1948 The American Broadcasting Company, or ABC, debuts a new radio game show called Stop the Music! Bert: Do you know the name of that song? Well friends, hold on. You may be called at home. Here’s how the show worked. Either an orchestra would play a popular song or two singers would hum a popular song, and the host, Bert Parks, would stop them by shouting “Stop the music!” This was Park’s signal that he had a contestant on the line whom he had called at random. This contestant was to guess the name of the song just played. If the contestant correctly guessed the name of the song, she or he won a prize, usually an expensive household appliance. If the contestant got the song wrong, the show chose a member of the studio audience to identify the song to win the prize. Six weeks after the show debuted, a North Carolina contestant won a jackpot of $17,000, or more than $179,000 if they’d won today and you adjusted for inflation. The show was a hit, and other broadcasters took notice, starting their own prize giveaway shows. Later, Stop the Music! was turned into a TV show. Not everyone was a fan. The National Association of Broadcasters accused these prize giveaway shows of “buying an audience.” The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC Eminem: So the FCC won’t let me be said the shows were breaking lottery laws and threatened to take away the license of any radio or TV station that aired them. In response, ABC sued the FCC because the FCC wouldn’t let them be. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of ABC, and so the FCC appealed to the Supreme Court. Now this whole process took awhile. The Court didn’t hear arguments until February 1, 1954. This was the same group of justices who heard arguments for the Brown v. Board of Education decision, by the way. At the root of this issue was whether or not shows like Stop the Music! promoted gambling. On April 5, 1954, the Court announced it had also sided with the broadcasters, ruling 8-0. The Court said the FCC straight up misinterpreted the lottery laws. These quiz shows were not gambling, as they were contests, and skill was involved, not chance. FCC v. ABC further legitimized the quiz show and further protected prize giveaway shows in general. Despite Stop the Music! quickly losing popularity and the quiz show trend of the late 1940s and early 1950s just being a fad, you could say this little known case played a big role in further making the game show a fixture of American culture. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! I, of course, hadn’t even heard of that Supreme Court Case before Buck Russell told me about it. That case was so obscure there is hardly any information about it available. I mostly relied on the actual Court testimony for this one. Anyway, thanks to Buck for suggesting it. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel called KMSI Media. Starting June 1st on the channel, he’s starting a new show on there called Buck Russell Presents. Oh yeah, and I listened to his suggestion because he is a supporter on Patreon. If you donate at least $3 or more per video on there I will prioritize your suggestions for history-related videos. The link for my Patreon is below. Thanks to my patrons, and thanks to you for watching!