Television Censorship


WHAT IS CENSORSHIP?

"Censorship is the supervision and control of the information and ideas
that 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 for
the purpose of altering or suppressing parts thought to be objectionable or
offensive. The objectionable material may be considered immoral or obscene,
heretical or blasphemous, seditious or treasonable, or injurious to the national
security. Thus, the rationale for censorship is that it is necessary for the
protection of three basic social institutions: the family, the church, and the
state.
Censorship and the ideology supporting it go back to ancient times. Every
society has had customs, taboos, or laws by which speech, play, dress, religious
observance, and sexual expression were regulated(Microsoft Encarta 95)."

CENSORSHIP OF OBSCENITY

"The beginning of a new legal approach may be traced to the action of the
federal courts in the 1930s, when they held that Irish author James Joyce\'s
Ulysses was not obscene and could be freely passed through customs. The courts
ruled that the use of "dirty words" in "a sincere and honest book" did not make
the book "dirty." Since the 1950s many obscenity cases involving books,
magazines, and film have been brought before the Supreme Court. In the cases
during 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; which
portray sexual conduct in a patently offensive way; and which, taken as a whole,
do not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value." The
Court has further held that obscenity should be determined by applying
"contemporary community standards" rather than national standards (Microsoft
Encarta 95)."

WHO DOES TELEVISION CENSORSHIP EFFECT?

CENSORSHIP AFFECTS MINORS AND ADULTS

Does censorship affect both minors and adults? One incident in Ohio led
a mother of a 5 year old boy to believe so. The boy\'s mother attributed his
actions 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 killed
his younger sister. In response to criticism about the show\'s violence and
appeal to younger viewers, MTV moved the cartoon to a later time slot, to
prevent young children from viewing it (Microsoft Internet Explorer).
In another incident a teen-aged boy was killed and two others seriously
injured while lying down along the centerline of a highway. The boys were
imitating a scene from the movie The Program. The accident and the publicity
that followed prompted Touchstone films to remove the scene from the movie, but
leaving many other violent scenes, including one in which a student purposely
smashes his head through a car window (Microsoft Internet Explorer).
I also believe that not only children but perhaps an "impressionable
adult" for whatever reason could feel moved to commit these same acts of
violence that are portrayed on uncensored movies and television. Many of these
movies contain countless instances of torture and unnatural suffering, mass
killings and ethnic persecution. Some of these same crimes are being committed
as we speak by minors and adults all over the world. Who is to say that people
are 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 form
of self-censorship. In the 1920\'s, responding to public demands for strong
controls, the Motion Picture Association of America imposed on its constituents
a 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 several
times 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 adult
guardian), and NC-17 (persons under age 17 not admitted, replaced the X rating
in 1990) (Microsoft Encarta 95)"

TELEVISION AND RADIO GUIDELINES

"For the television and radio industries the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC) has generally established vague rules about program content
containing an implied threat that a license can be revoked for repeated poor
judgment involving program content. In 1987 the FCC responded to public
complaints by adopting measures to restrict the use of explicit language about
sex and bodily functions from the broadcasting media. Another code, designed by
the National Association of Broadcasters, is voluntarily adhered to by station
operators. The major networks