Television CensorshipWHAT IS CENSORSHIP?”Censorship is the supervision and control of the information and ideasthat are circulated among the people within a society. In modern times,censorship refers to the examination of books, periodicals, plays, films,television and radio programs, news reports, and other communication media forthe purpose of altering or suppressing parts thought to be objectionable oroffensive.
The objectionable material may be considered immoral or obscene,heretical or blasphemous, seditious or treasonable, or injurious to the nationalsecurity. Thus, the rationale for censorship is that it is necessary for theprotection of three basic social institutions: the family, the church, and thestate. Censorship and the ideology supporting it go back to ancient times. Everysociety has had customs, taboos, or laws by which speech, play, dress, religiousobservance, and sexual expression were regulated(Microsoft Encarta 95).Order now
“CENSORSHIP OF OBSCENITY”The beginning of a new legal approach may be traced to the action of thefederal courts in the 1930s, when they held that Irish author James Joyce’sUlysses was not obscene and could be freely passed through customs. The courtsruled that the use of “dirty words” in “a sincere and honest book” did not makethe book “dirty. ” Since the 1950s many obscenity cases involving books,magazines, and film have been brought before the Supreme Court. In the casesduring the 1970s the court ruled that laws against obscenity must be limited “to works which, taken as a whole, appeal to the prurient interest in sex; whichportray sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and which, taken as a whole,do not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. ” TheCourt has further held that obscenity should be determined by applying”contemporary community standards” rather than national standards (MicrosoftEncarta 95).
“WHO DOES TELEVISION CENSORSHIP EFFECT?CENSORSHIP AFFECTS MINORS AND ADULTSDoes censorship affect both minors and adults? One incident in Ohio leda mother of a 5 year old boy to believe so. The boy’s mother attributed hisactions to the influence of the popular MTV cartoon show Beavis and Butthead. In response to watching this cartoon the boy set his house on fire which killedhis younger sister. In response to criticism about the show’s violence andappeal to younger viewers, MTV moved the cartoon to a later time slot, toprevent young children from viewing it (Microsoft Internet Explorer). In another incident a teen-aged boy was killed and two others seriouslyinjured while lying down along the centerline of a highway.
The boys wereimitating a scene from the movie The Program. The accident and the publicitythat followed prompted Touchstone films to remove the scene from the movie, butleaving many other violent scenes, including one in which a student purposelysmashes his head through a car window (Microsoft Internet Explorer). I also believe that not only children but perhaps an “impressionableadult” for whatever reason could feel moved to commit these same acts ofviolence that are portrayed on uncensored movies and television. Many of thesemovies contain countless instances of torture and unnatural suffering, masskillings and ethnic persecution. Some of these same crimes are being committedas we speak by minors and adults all over the world.
Who is to say that peopleare not influenced by viewing a movie that lacked proper censorship?WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GUIDELINES THAT GOVERN TELEVISION CENSORSHIP?FILM INDUSTRY GUIDELINES”One US industry, the film industry has for many years practiced a formof self-censorship. In the 1920’s, responding to public demands for strongcontrols, the Motion Picture Association of America imposed on its constituentsa Production Act; compliance with its standards gave a movie a seal of approval. A system of film classification was begun in 1968 and has been revised severaltimes since then. Films are given ratings, as follows: G (general audiences),PG (Parental Guidance advised), PG-13 (may not be suitable for pre-teens), R(persons under age 17 not admitted unless accompanied by parent or adultguardian), and NC-17 (persons under age 17 not admitted, replaced the X ratingin 1990) (Microsoft Encarta 95)”TELEVISION AND RADIO GUIDELINES”For the television and radio industries the Federal CommunicationsCommission (FCC) has generally established vague rules about program contentcontaining an implied threat that a license can be revoked for repeated poorjudgment involving program content. In 1987 the FCC responded to publiccomplaints by adopting measures to restrict the use of explicit language aboutsex and bodily functions from the broadcasting media. Another code, designed bythe National Association of Broadcasters, is voluntarily adhered to by stationoperators.
The major networks also have their own self-regulating system. TheColumbia Broadcasting System (CBS), for example, has a staff of people whoreview scripts and watch everything that is aired on CBS-TV, includingcommercials; every contract with a producer provides that the project is subjectto approval under this system (Microsoft Encarta 95). “PRIVATE ACTION GROUP GUIDELINES”In the US, many different private groups attempt to influence radio andtelevision and broadcasters and other communication media to suppress materialthat they consider objectionable. Religious, ethnic, and racial groups havetried to prevent plays, movies and television programs from being presentedbecause of elements they deem offensive. “”One private group, the American Civil Liberties Union, promotes theopen flow of all types of information in the belief that individuals should havefree access and opportunities for the exercise of their personal discretion andthat no group should limit the availability of the resources from which suchchoices are made (Microsoft Encarta 95).
“TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPETITION AND DEREGULATION ACT OF 1995THE GOALS”This Act is intended to establish a national policy framework designedto accelerate rapidly the private sector deployment of advancedtelecommunications and information technologies and services to all Americans byopening all telecommunications markets to competition, and to meet the followinggoals:1) To promote and encourage advanced telecommunications networks, capableof enabling users to originate and receive affordable, high-quality voice, data,image, graphic, and video telecommunications services. 2) To improve international competitiveness markedly. 3) To spur economic growth, create jobs, and increase productivity. 4) To deliver a better quality of life through the preservation andadvancement of universal service to allow the more efficient delivery ofeducational, health care, and other social services (Telecommunications Bill1995, Internet). “THE FINDINGSThe Congress makes the following findings:”Competition, not regulation, is the best way to spur innovation and thedevelopment of new services.
A competitive market place is the most efficientway to lower prices and increase value for consumers. In furthering theprinciple of open and full competition in all telecommunications markets,however, it must be recognized that some markets are more open than others. “”More competitive American telecommunications markets will promote UnitedStates technological advances, domestic job and investment opportunities,national competitiveness (Telecommunication Bill of 1995, Internet)”VIEWERS HAVE OPTION TO WATCH VIOLENCE ON TELEVISIONOne Associate Night Editor, Daniel C. Stevenson, wrote a column called,”Viewers Have Option To Watch Violence On Television”. In this column, hestates, “It should not be the responsibility of the government to decide what isgood and bad for viewers, it should be the responsibility of the viewersthemselves.
A film or book that is vulgar or horrifying to one person might beseen as beautiful art or entertainment to another. Such value judgments shouldbe left up to each person, not formulated by the government. Any kind ofgovernment control that seeks to expose children only to ‘good’ events andactions is a violation of an important freedomthe freedom to see both sides ofan event, to observe both good and bad (Microsoft Internet Explorer). “Another viewpoint is that of Pat Paulsen, TV personality, on January 7,1968. He states, “Many people feel that censorship is a violation of Freedom ofSpeechBull FeathersCensorship is NOT unconstitutional. Censors have the rightto censor what you hear.
Without censorship of television, how else can you,the American public, have the protection you want from vulgar scenes, over-exposed bodies and all the other sights you like to seeWithout the censors wewould all be at the mercy of the warped minds of the television industry andDeity only knows what you would see, probably some of the most foul, nasty,disgusting, vulgar, funniest, greatest stuff in the world (Microsoft InternetExplorer). “CENSORSHIP OF TELEVISON – VIEWPOINTSSHOULD TELEVISION SHOWS BE CENSORED?One private individual, Mitchell Gene Zaninelli states, “I will startwith the censorship of television. The government of the United States ofAmerica has been getting very involved in what they think is appropriate to beon television. I want to know why they get to decide what I want to watch. Ifeel that it should be a person’s choice.
They say they are concerned with whatchildren are viewing, or that some things such as nudity and swear words offendpeople. Parents should monitor what their children watch. If a parent does notwant their child to see something in particular, then it is the parent’sresponsibility to see that they do not, not the government’s (Microsoft InternetExplorer).”What do you think? Should our government continue to enforce televisionand film censorship as it has been? Or should all forms of censorship beabolished completely?THE PURPOSE”It is the purpose of this Act to increase competition in alltelecommunications markets and provide for an orderly transition from regulatedmarkets to competitive and deregulated telecommunications markets consistentwith the public interest, convenience, and necessity (Telecommunications Bill of1995, Internet).”