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Television Censorship Essay

“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). ” “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 Joyces 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). ” Does censorship affect both minors and adults? One incident in Ohio led a mother of  a 5 year old boy to believe so. The boys 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 shows 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? “One US industry, the film industry has for many years practiced a form of self-censorship. In the 1920s, 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)” 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 also have their own self-regulating system.

The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), for example, has a staff of people who review scripts and watch everything that is aired on CBS-TV, including commercials; every contract with a producer provides that the project is subject to approval under this system (Microsoft Encarta 95). ” “In the US, many different private groups attempt to influence radio and television and broadcasters and other communication media to suppress material that they consider objectionable.

Religious, ethnic, and racial groups have tried to prevent plays, movies and television programs from being presented because of elements they deem offensive. ” “One private group, the American Civil Liberties Union, promotes the open flow of all types of information in the belief that individuals should have free access and opportunities for the exercise of their personal discretion and that no group should limit the availability of the resources from which such choices are made (Microsoft Encarta 95). “

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