Censorship & Society

Aug 3, 2018 in Sociology

Introduction

Media has always been an important source of knowledge for all levels of society as it connects people through its messages by influencing humans’ consciousness. The media has both advantages and disadvantages. Media is beneficial because of its ability to inform the audience on the things that are not open to all people. However, the effects of media can also be damaging. For example, when the public does not question the information offered by media, there is likelihood of developing wrong beliefs. This essay is an attempt to analyze whether the censorship of media content is beneficial to society.

Censorship can be seen both as a violation of the freedom of speech and a necessary component in the society’s development. On the one hand, in a world where people are used to speaking in oral or written form without any censorship, such freedom is one of the prerequisites of protecting its public. From another perspective, we also have to screen inappropriate TV content or language during the times when youngsters may see it. That is an example of a beneficial censorship.

The inappropriate censorship of content and language can be also detrimental because of inaccurate representation of everyday life. Despite the fact that some of the popular programs can be a little exaggerated, the behavior of chosen characters resembles everyday life. Thus, by censoring those programs, there is a chance of misleading the audience into thinking that the extent of real life is distorted (Pardoe 2008).

The censorship of media is quite popular nowadays as it can influence the audience by its message, which is not always moral. The greatest majority of those people that become affected by the media are children and young adults. For that reason, censorship is should become common for this audience. It is essential to differentiate among the various aspects of censorship however.

For example, various types of music related either to religion or other sensitive topics are normally banned on the radio. However, there are state-owned radio and private broadcasting services, which can impose even stricter regulations on their music content. Such types of music are usually available for download on the pirate sites. As a rule, musicians record a couple of versions of the same song so it can be adjusted for various broadcasting stations. Some of those songs have more verses that are explicit and the others are not.

The music genre also merits considerable attention, which often depends upon the meaning of the lyrics, among other things. If the song is rather controversial, it has more chances to fall under more severe censorship rules. The censorship of books also presents an important issue, as there are authors who write about controversial or sensitive topics. Such authors may insult the readers who find their writing being against their personal beliefs or culture. In fact, there are certain books that are banned from public when they cross the border of acceptability.

As there are various types of TV content which can have an obscene or explicit nature, its type should be monitored before broadcasting and, if needed, withheld from viewing. However, some censor boards can allow the material to be viewed, but with either cutting out or blurring the part which is not acceptable to their mind. In some countries, the magazines that include pornographic content can be banned from the distribution as well.

The internet is the most dangerous content provider, as some websites allow freely viewable pornographic content. Moreover, child pornography is considered a major industry, which is associated with the red alert sign for both censor boards and the government. Therefore, media censorship should be exercised in the American society, as it currently enjoys an overly high freedom of expression.

Censorship is considered to be the official government’s hiding of any public expression that the leading authority is convinced can possibly threaten both  its power or moral and social order that are accepted by the society. It is a tool which does not allow children that are under the age of 18 to see or hear any obscene scenes. 

In order to establish the ethics of censorship in the internet, films, music, or television, the format of media content should be agreed upon. It is essential to remember that the government is responsible for cherry-picking the material to be broadcasted.

Children normally react to new experiences in various ways. For example, they cannot be restricted from watching or listening to certain content just because they are not of the legal age. For that reason, it is parents who carry the responsibility for letting their children watch the media content that is appropriate to their age and development stage. However, due to the lack of the system of rating standards of media content, parents are often unable to protect their children from the obscenities that can potentially be very traumatic.

It is essential to mention here that government is the main institution whose duty is to advise its citizens on the media content that can be objectionable. Generally, morality in media should be associated with the absence of linguistic obscenity and scenes of sex and violence.  There should also be a barrier set between advisory and mandatory principles. Nonetheless, it is the duty of parents to educate their children, but not of the government, which should merely be a vehicle for the morally acceptable behavior. 

The questions of content acceptability in the commercial media are always debatable. However, there are widely accepted norms that divide such content into appropriate and inappropriate. There have been ongoing debates on whether inappropriate language, violence, and sex scenes in the media affect the today’s children more than before. Because the internet content is limitless, it is more crucial for mature adults to educate their children in proper viewing content. 

The main task of the government is to present those criteria that they consider indecent, and those criteria should directly coincide with the duty of parents to determine those types of material which they consider appropriate for their children. The movie ratings, for example those exist in the U.S. system override the decision-making of parents by restricting children from viewing certain content. Thus, it is essential for the government to keep track of the obscenity level in various programs. However, the final decision regarding the permission for what to watch or listen to for the children lies in their parents’ responsibility.

There is a particular set of cultural standards that have recently been developed and fostered in the U.S. that are aimed at good parenting. As TV and online media are the children’s most immediate sources of influence nowadays, parents should be capable of monitoring what their children do. However, the government can and should supervise the parents on keeping their children from obscenities. 

There are a number of scholars who write about the relations between the media and censorship. For example, Ambekar (2008) presents the general reasons for censorship in media as a great debate for a long time. He is convinced that there can be an obstruct transfer of very essential information, which can sometimes be also problematic that should require censorship at some point (Ambekar 2008).

Halbrooks (2013) presents both the ways in which media can block the news from the audience and argues on the process on making the information public. The scholar argues on the questions of political bias, corporate interests, security of information and the advanced internet use.

Alboim et.al (2012) characterize the censorship situation in Canada based on the political discourse for the last thirty years. They argue on the influence of the influence of such social networks as Twitter, Facebook and various blogs that have emerged not long time ago as an important platforms and tools for various political campaigns (Alboim et.al 2012).

There are some scholars that claim on the need of various public activities that are vital for the U.S. development. Thus, Lane (2006) describes the campaign to cleanse American culture calling it the “decency wars”. At the same time, Millar (2013) is able to connect the process of media censorship with the public apathy within the frames of the knowledge of general public the government activities.

It is evident that the discussed parents-children relationships and the role of the governments, in this case, are not the only issues connected to censorship questions. There is also a different side of this question taking into the account the institutions in various countries.

Depending on the institutions that make policies in a certain country, as well as the role and the position of authorities in certain geographic areas, there can be both advantages and disadvantages to censorship. However, it is vital to look at the questions of censorship in the countries that are less developed.

In many developing countries, depending on the level of the community growth and existing democratic principles, the censorship questions can be less beneficial to the society. For example, in certain post-Soviet countries, such as Belarus or Ukraine, the government tries to control too many aspects of social life. The journalists of those countries often have to protest against the censorship rules that are imposed by the government.

The majority of the TV channels there belong to oligarchs loyal to the government, who dictate what to write about, thus posing a threat to the freedom of speech. In response, journalists and NGOs often organize various meetings and activities to fight the omnipresent government. They also set up public campaigns, artistic contests, and mobile photo exhibitions that help to spread the word about the governmental activities. Such actions are very informative and efficient from the point of view of time consumption and the end result.

When we consider developed countries, the censorship typically assumes roles that are more sensible. There is less chance of possible disinformation and prejudice regarding the activities of the highest country authorities. In order to attain beneficial censorship, everything should be first regulated on the government level. In this case, we consider a vertical form of management in the country. It can take on the role of adopted laws, decrees, and regulations.

Moreover, there should be local representatives who check the implementation of those set laws. There should be particular doctrines that would help to avoid the influence of public servants on the truth of information being disseminated. Censorship has to be done in a smart way, as it may become one of the main predicaments of the democratic society.

The interference from all of the institutions that create censorship policies has to be fair. Consequently, the freedom of expression must be preserved by all means. To break the existing prejudice and stereotypes on the activities of the government, all of the affected parties should be positively affected by the application of the media ratings. However, first, the government should deserve a positive image from its citizens.

When the consumers of media regard those ratings as useful guidelines to what they should watch, they will be capable of protecting themselves from potentially harmful content. Therefore, the question of morality of the mass media becomes significant when the audience commits to it.

It is a two-sided process, where both of the parties can influence the situation by determining the appropriateness of certain information, especially in cases involving children. On the one hand, the current government position on the censorship of media in various countries is flawed. On the one hand, it is important to prohibit morally offensive content that includes violence, linguistic ribaldry, and sex displays in public media.

Apparently, the parents’ role in the modern society has been losing its previous importance, as the children’s best friend has become the internet. However, despite the lowered parents’ role, the governments with their regulations can affect child’s spare time as well. However, parents should be and are the ones that are mainly responsible for their children’s education. The government, instead of restricting its censoring content, should better encourage media representatives to sharpen the set of those criteria for ratings that are more helpful for the parents in assessing the content that their children can watch. At the same time, any country’s government should not violate the rights of individuals to access the material that they consider appropriate. Furthermore, they should allow the parents to choose useful content for their children. 

To sum up, media censorship can be more beneficial in developed countries as the developing ones are struggling with other political issues. Thus, the fight for freedom of speech does not bring anything positive to censorship. Lastly, every country is different and should promote tailor-made regulations that would fit the interests of all of the parties concerned.

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