40 Years Ago in PGN: Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2016

40 Years Ago in PGN: Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2016

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WXPN license in jeopardy for gay program

Adapted from reporting by John Zeh

University of Pennsylvania representatives traveled to Washington, D.C., in mid-November 1975 to meet with the Federal Communications Commission about whether the license for local radio station WXPN would be renewed.


Penn holds the license for the station, which aired gay programming from 1-3 p.m. on Sundays in addition to other “experimental blends of talk” and music.

The FCC levied a $2,000 fine against WXPN, nearly one-fourth of its operating budget, and wanted to hold hearings to revoke the license. The license remained in effect thanks to listeners swamping the FCC with letters of support.

The fine came from objections to a weekly program called “The Vegetable Report.” The show featured talk about profanity and sexuality in children and adults. A Sept. 30, 1974, show included readings from “Erotic Fantasies,” a historical collection of attitudes on human sexuality. A 1949 Penn graduate complained the program presented “porno stories about homosexuality and other sexual abuses.” The Penn student-activities director ordered the show off the air.

WXPN station officials acknowledged the issue with the show airing during the day, instead of late at night. 

WXPN continues to operate as a noncommercial radio station. It’s known for the music program “World Café,” which NPR distributes to member stations across the country.

Out Philly doctor to lead Gay Public Health Workers

Adapted from reporting by PGN staff

An out Philadelphia doctor was chosen to serve as general coordinator of the Gay Public Health Workers caucus, which was newly formed as part of the American Public Health Association.

Dr. Walter J. Lear, commissioner of health services for the Metropolitan Philadelphia Region of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, took the role in November 1975 at the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

Frances Hanckel, also of Philadelphia, was chosen as financial coordinator.

The resolution that formed the caucus also called for the public-health association to endorse several gay-related issues: the federal gay-rights bill that would repeal sodomy laws; health agency adoption of equal-employment policies for sexual minorities; and education for health workers about sexism, homophobia and practices in the health field that oppress gay people. 

Gay Public Health Workers hosted an exhibit in Chicago to illustrate the reality of being a gay health worker or gay patient.

“Many convention visitors stopped to ask questions and pick up literature, and hostile attitudes were rare,” according to the report. 

The caucus’ next stated goal was to organize several scientific sessions at the public health association’s future conferences to address health problems and health services for lesbians and gay men. 

— compiled by Paige Cooperstein

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