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ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING - 7 DECEMBER 1976

Comment on Content of Records by Sir John Read, Chairman


During the course of today's Annual General Meeting, Sir John Read, Chairman of the EMI Group said:
'The EMI Group of companies operates internationally and has been engaged in the recorded music business for over 75 years.
'During recent years in particular, the question of acceptable content of records has become increasingly difflcult to resolve - largely due to the increasing degree of permissiveness accepted by Society as a whole, both in the UK and overseas. Throughout its history as a recording company, EMI has always sought to behave within contemporary limits of decency and good taste - taking into account not only the traditional rigid conventions of one section of Society, but also the increasingly liberal attitudes of other (perhaps larger) sections of Society at any given time.
'Today, there is in EMI's experience not only an over-whelming sense of permissiveness - as demonstrated by the content of books, newspapers and magazines, as well as records and films - but also a good deal of questioning by various sections of Society, both young and old, e.g. What is decent or in good taste compared to the attitudes of, say, 20 or even 10 years ago ?
'It is against this present-day social background that EMI has to make value judgements about the content of records in particular. EMI has on a number of occasions taken steps totally to ban individual records, and similarly to ban record sleeves or posters or other promotional material which it believed would be offensive.
'The Sex Pistols incident, which started with a disgraceful interview given by this young pop group on Thames TV last week, has been followed by a vast amount of newspaper coverage in the last few days.
'Sex Pistols is a pop group devoted to a new form of music known as "punk rock". It was contracted for recording purposes by EMI Records Limited in October 1976 - an unknown group offering some promise, in the view of our recording executives, like many other pop groups of different kinds that we have signed. In this context, it must be remembered that the recording industry has signed many pop groups, initially controversial, who have in the fullness of time become wholly acceptable and contributed greatly to the development of modern music.
'Sex Pistols have acquired a reputation for aggressive behaviour which they have certainly demonstrated in public. There is no excuse for this. Our recording company's experience of working with the group, however, is satisfactory.
'Sex Pistols is the only "punk rock" group that EMI Records currently has under direct recording contract and whether EMI does in fact release any more of their records will have to be very carefully considered. I need hardly add that we shall do everything we can to restrain their public behaviour, although this is a matter over which we have no real control.
'Similarly, EMI will review its general guidelines re garding the content of pop records. Who is to decide what is objectionable or unobjectionable to the public at large today ? When anyone sits down to consider seriously this problem, it will be found that there are widely differing attitudes between people of all ages and all walks of life as to what can be shown or spoken or sung.
'Our view within EMI is that we should seek to discourage records that are likely to give offence to the majority of people. In this context, changing public attitudes have to be taken into account.
'EMI should not set itself up as a public censor, but it does seek to encourage restraint.
'The Board of EMI certainly takes seriously the need to do everything possible to encourage the raising of standards in music and entertainment.'

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