That was Frank McNinch, who as chairman of FDR’s Federal Communications Commission (1937-39) dealt with controversial figures ranging from Orson Welles to Mae West. About Welles’ “War of the Worlds” McNinch lamented that “any broadcast that creates such general panic and fear… is, to say the least regrettable,” but resisted calls for increased censorship. West wasn’t so lucky: After McNinch chastised NBC for her suggestive delivery in an Adam and Eve skit, she wasn’t heard on radio for another 37 years.
Seventy-five years ago this month Time magazine put McNinch on its cover, reporting that “President Roosevelt — to whom radio means a lot — sent over [to the FCC] his acute and large-eared little trouble shooter, 65-year-old Frank Ramsay McNinch. Chairman McNinch comes from Charlotte, N.C., a thriving city of which he was twice mayor. A small but fearless Presbyterian elder, Mr. McNinch is against liquor (he keeps a vacuum jug of milk on his desk).”
“Large-eared” was just the first of Time’s characteristically snarky descriptions of McNinch’s appearance. Later in 1938 he was “goggle-eyed;” in 1939, “pitcher-eared.”