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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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