Is censorship a good or a bad idea

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Is censorship a good or a bad idea

  1. 1. Is censorship a good or a bad idea? Censorship is the suppression of forms of public communication such as speech, written publications or television that may be considered as objectionable, sensitive, harmful, politically incorrect or inconvenient as decided by the government, media outlet or other controlling bodies. Whether it should exist and to what extent it should be put in place is a heavily debated subject with strong arguments both supporting and opposing censorship. One of the most heavily censored media forms is television. This is due to the huge audiences television broadcasts attract and also the limited control over who has access to certain content. One way this is done in England is the enforcement of the 9PM watershed meaning that programmes with adult content may only be broadcast after this time. This to some degree protects children from being exposed to adult themes, including bad language, violence, horror, sexual intercourse, drug use and nudity. Exposure to subjects such as these at a young age is seen as inappropriate and may affect a child’s development. In some countries the law states that there is to be a gentle transition from family to adult appropriate content. In the United Kingdom some 12+ rated programmes such as The Simpsons and Doctor Who can be shown before the watershed. After this 15+ shows begin to be aired with the programmes rated 18+ not to be broadcast until after 10PM on most channels. Breaching the watershed usually means a fine will be issued or some sort of disciplinary action to the broadcasting company or individual or even the show being cancelled. One significant breach of watershed was the 1976 Today Show with the interview of the Sex Pistols where members of the band uttered swear words at the show’s host, Bill Grundy who was later suspended for two weeks with the show being cancelled all together after another two months. I believe that having this kind of censorship is in place to protect young people from viewing age inappropriate content and in important measure to take, as this will protect them from seeing things that may affect their development. The hypodermic needle model is a theory that states influences from the media are directly received and accepted by the audience. Experiments such as the Bobo Doll Experiment carried out by the psychologist Albert Bandura shows that when exposed to a scenario where a group of adults violently attack a clown doll, Bobo, 88% of the children imitated the behaviour and 8 months later 40% reproduced this violence. This shows that the Hypodermic needle theory affects children very strongly and so shielding from adult themes is very important. It is not only the actual programmes on television that need to be censored; advertisements must also be regulated. Advertisements try to target an audience and use reception theory to try and give them the preferred reading of an idea. This means that the audience understands the message and agrees with it, a vital thing for advertisers if they want an audience to buy their product. There are many ways in which advertising companies can do this, but some are seen as wrong. Because of children’s higher susceptibility to things they see, as the Bobo Doll Experiment showed, regulations must be put in place to make sure children are not exploited. These are enforced by the Advertising Standards Agency. Rules put in place fall into 4 main categories such as Credulity and Unfair Pressure these ensures that advertising companies cannot take advantage of young children’s vulnerability, trust and lack of experience to coerce them into purchasing a product.
  2. 2. Another rule states that no advertisement may show a child directly asking a parent to buy them something and may not directly tell a child to buy a product. Instead suggestion must be used, the reason for this again is that if a child is told to buy something or sees a child asking for their parents to buy them something they are likely to do the same, putting unfair pressure on parents to purchase. Children’s programmes that do not last for over 30 minutes may not be interrupted by an advertisement break, lessening the exposure to children. Young people view over 40,000 adverts a year and this high exposure has been blamed as a large contributing factor of the increasing cases of childhood obesity, poor nutrition and cigarette and alcohol use. This has lead to an increase in the restrictions on advert content, for example the ban of general advertising of cigarettes was put in place on the 14th February 2003. Restrictions have continued with cigarette packets now having to be hidden in the shops. Other restrictions include alcohol adverts not being permitted to promote alcohol in a way that encourages binging or shows it in an attractive way to young people as it may encourage alcohol abuse. Car adverts must not show the car being driven in a reckless or irresponsible way with excessive speed and dangerous manoeuvres as this may encourage drivers to drive in the same way. Books are another form of media that are quite heavily censored for a number of reasons, often carrying legal action or a fine for the publishers and author of the book in question. If someone sees an issue within a publication it is raised with a governing and can be banned nationally or sub-nationally. Books can also be banned on a local, community level meaning they may be taken out of local schools or libraries but only ones in this area. Religious organisations may also release a list of banned books that they believe to be offensive or against their beliefs. Unlike many other forms of media, books have no age rating and the only thing stopping a young child buying a book or borrowing one from a library is if a ban has been put in place or a local community challenge has been successful. This means that if there has been no ban, children can potentially gain access to and read books that are unsuitable for them. Bans or censoring in books is often used to prevent things such as libel, slander or to stop intellectual property from being used without permission. It can also be used wrongly however, to prevent certain ideas or political views from being released. One example of this is with the children’s book “In Our Mothers’ House” that tells the story of lesbian parents. The book was removed from a library in Utah, America after complaints about the content were made. Parents of children borrowing the book stated that it normalised a homosexual lifestyle, this being something they “don’t agree with”. I believe that the withdrawal of literature such as “In Our Mothers’ House” from libraries is wrong as it does not allow children to find out about things themselves and their minds are made up for them. Another concern frequently raised in regards to uncensored books are the accusations that they can inspire crime and on the extreme end of the spectrum, murder. One famous case of this was the murder of a high school boy by his classmate, Michael Hernandez, 14. He claimed the novel by Bret Easton Ellis; American Psycho, inspired him and that he acted out the role of the books psychotic killer when committing his crime. Although children are seen as more susceptible to being influenced by the external ideas in books, adults have also claimed to have been inspired to commit crimes from books that they have read. A hugely famous example of this is the murder of Beatles member John Lennon by Mark Chapman, who it is believed was determined to kill Lennon after reading the novel “A Catcher In The Rye”. Chapman’s lawyers put
  3. 3. forward an insanity defence, claiming he was delusional and in a psychotic stage, Chapman instructed his lawyers to remove this defence deciding to instead plead guilty, as he believed it was the will of God. However he was still ruled as mentally unwell in the trial, with his sentence being 20 years to life with the stipulation that mental health treatment be provided. Admittedly when incidences such as these occur they are shocking and do often cause an outcry in the public and a campaign for the “responsible” book to be banned, but more often than not the person who has committed the crime is found to be mentally unstable or unwell. I believe that the books merely tip an already ill person over the edge; something that time probably would have done itself anyhow. With this reason in consideration I conclude that banning books because of their alleged cause for a crime is unnecessary because of the rarity of such incidences and the dubious involvement the books really have. I believe giving books age ratings and putting things in place to stop children from having access to books with adult content is also unnecessary. Most young children will be more interested in reading an adult book if they are told they can not read them, without a ban children will be satisfied reading material designed for their own age range. Different parents also have different styles and ideas about how to look after and what they are comfortable exposing their children to. Because of this I believe that protecting a child from certain themes and content should be down to a parent or guardian rather than a library or council. Censorship of the Internet is a huge issue in the current political climate and one often raised by human rights activists and supporters of democracy. Sometimes the Internet is censored for good reasons, such as the British government openly blocking child pornography websites and routes of communication for extremist terrorist groups. Things such as social and national security can be protected with censorship and it is necessary to protect these so this censorship is a good thing. People more frequently challenge censorship when it is a private block put in place locally by a company or organisation. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are often banned by a workplace’s Wi-Fi or Internet provider to stop employees from using them while they are working. This can help with worker productivity but some people argue that it stops their right to freedom of speech and the ability to freely browse the Internet. Governments who wish to shield their people from certain political ideas or information can use censorship to do this by blocking blogging or social networking websites. This takes away human rights such as freedom of speech from their people. It is used very effectively to oppress, if news sites are blocked and the population is kept ignorant to the world outside their country, questions will not be asked about the conditions in which they live in or the way in which they are ruled. To conclude I believe that to begin with censorship was a good thing and protected the public or particularly impressionable or venerable groups such as young children but it has now been taken too far by in some places. It is intruding into people’s lives too much and sometimes as is the case in North Korea and China are violating human rights.

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