The first regularly scheduled, commercial television relay opened on Thursday, May 24th, 1944 between station WNBT in New York City and station WPTZ in Philadelphia. The broadcast was sponsored by the Philco Corporation, which owned WPTZ . For some unknown reason the broadcast wasn’t included in television listings published in The New York Times so I don’t know when it began or how long it lasted. Watching the broadcast were members of the Poor Richard Club at the Franklin Institute, anyone in New York City who may have turned on their sets at the right time, and viewers able to receive WPTZ’s signal.
In addition to being the first program aired over the first regularly scheduled, commercial television relay, the broadcast was also the source of what may have been television’s first act of censorship. It involved entertainer Eddie Cantor who, along with Nora Martin, provided the evening’s entertainment from NBC’s studios in New York City .
In a May 27th article, The New York Times referred to the incident as “television’s first controversy over censorship” . NBC cut the audio while Cantor and Martin were performing a song called “We’re Having a Baby, My Baby and Me” with Martin and also moved the camera up while Cantor began to “illustrate the song with a modified hula-hula dance in the tradition of the Broadway stage” . What were the objectionable lyrics?
Martin: “Thanks to you, life is bright. You’ve brought me joy beyond measure.”
Cantor: “Don’t thank me. Quite all right. Honestly, it was a pleasure.”
Martin: “Just think, it’s my first one.”
Cantor: “The next one’s on me.” 
NBC’s vice president in charge of programs, Clarence L. Menser, told The New York Times that the audio was cut due to “the obligation of NBC to the public to make certain that its facilities do not bring into American homes material which the audience would find objectionable” . Menser also stated that it was the second time Cantor had to be censored (he didn’t clarify whether the first time took place on radio or television).
According to Cantor, he was only told of NBC’s objections some 40 minutes prior to the start of the broadcast, meaning there was no time to rehearse a new number. Menser said that Cantor insisted on dropping the entire routine if the lyrics were to be cut but Menser and NBC decided to simply cut them out. That didn’t sit well with Cantor:
I’m blazing mad at fellows who tell you it’s all right and then sneak around and cut you off. Of course, NBC has the right to say we don’t use the lyrics, but when little Hitlers tell you you can’t do it just as you’re going on, that’s tough.
There must have been dialogue on the air that has to do about marriage and people having a child. No man can be in the business for thirty-five years and do any vulgarity and last. I’ve been at it longer than NBC or television. 
Cantor also stated that he couldn’t remember being cut off by NBC before. TIME reported on the controversy in early June but chose to focus on the technology behind the relay, explaining that in order for the broadcast to make it from New York City to Philadelphia, a relay was situated halfway between the cities and WNBT boosted its power . TIME also pointed out that while the relay worked, “on prewar television receivers Eddie Cantor’s stifled image was anything but clear” .
Was this really television’s first act of censorship? If so, it’s unfortunate no recording of the broadcast exists. It’s hard to understand what exactly NBC felt was objectionable about the lyrics. Was it the line “Honestly, it was a pleasure,” which suggests the act of making a baby is somehow enjoyable? Or perhaps “The next one’s on me,” indicating that payment for babies may somehow be acceptable?
3 “Cantor Censored in Televised Act.” New York Times. 27 May 1944: 17.
8 “Radio: Belligerent First.” TIME. 5 Jun. 1944: Page Unknown. Read at Time.com (Opens in new window).