Censorship is suppression of communication which may be considered necessary, harmful or inconvenient to those it is applied to, and can be determined by the government or media outlet. (It can take place in different forms; legal restrictions, self regulation and social regulation). Example of self regulation: Reporters and commentators who adjust to the realities of source and media organisational requirements.” – Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky
Regulation regularly takes place in the media industry, by controlling rules and restrictions. Like censorship regulation attempts to prevent outcomes within media which are harmful to the public interest (It can take place in different forms; legal restrictions, self regulation and social regulation). Example of regulation: In the UK you are unable to show adult content before 9pm, this is to help prevent children viewing unsuitable programs before the watershed.
Ofcom is the communication regulator authority for the UK. They are responsible for filtering the content delivered to viewers to protects the interests and rights of citizens and consumers. Ofcom is also responsible for regulating the airwaves which wireless devices operate, more specifically the licenses for; Radio communication – including 3G and Shipping radio. Radio Broadcast – including D&B and Analogue Broadcast and finally TV Broadcasting .
Ofcom is governed by three parliament acts;
Communication Act 2003 – Established Ofcom with full powers for regulating the media and included further legislation on cross-media ownership amongst other provisions. Data Protection Act 1998 – Data protection act defines the way in which information about living people can legally be used and handled. Freedom of Information Act 2000 – Established to create greater transparency and accountability in government by allowing public to access and scrutinise government documents.
Ofcom’s recent activity has been focused on comedian Frankie Boyle and his jokes which insulted Katie Price’s disabled son, Harvey. Ofcom stated that censorship was justified due to comedian “Frankie Boyle – targeting and mocking the mental and physical disability”. However, Ofcom has came under scrutiny for successfully censoring Frankie Boyle’s joke whilst refusing to censor BBC2’s Top Gear for breaching broadcasting regulations after describing Mexicans as “Lazy, feckless, flatulent and overweight”. Ofcom justified the ‘lack of censorship’, by stating the program regularly features an ‘irrelevant style’ and ‘outspoken humour’.
Television companies need to be self-regulating to ensure substantial interest is gained through the advertising market, otherwise they will not receive enough funding to sustain their channel.
“Television networks learn over time that such programs will not sell and would have to be carried at a financial sacrifice, and that, in addition. They may offend powerful advertisers. With rare exceptions these are culturally and politically conservative. Large corporate advertisers on television will rarely sponsor programs that engage in serious criticisms of corporate activities such as problems with environmental degradation.”
(Herman and Chomsky)
Reiterating the importance of advertising for television channels, without there custom, television channels would not have enough money to produce such lavish programs. Companies often justify selective news broadcasts by claiming their broadcasts are ‘chosen through unbiased, professional and objective criteria’. They also state that they have ‘support from the intellectual community’.
I am now going to show you an example of a news story which hasn’t be deemed ‘news worthy’ by mainstream broadcasters, ‘The War You Don’t See’.
So who decides which content can be shown on television? Ben Bagdikian states that the twenty-nine largest media systems account for over half of the media’s output. He warns that this could constitute as the creation of a new private ministry of information and culture that can set the national agenda for private interests.
Herman & Chomsky refer to this as the ‘Propaganda Model’, where wealth and power decides the mass-media interests and choices. It traces the routes by which money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalised dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their message across to the public. The essential ingredients of the propaganda model consist of; concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation.
Embedded journalism is a phrase used to describe journalists who have willingly been inserted into military units, with the intention to report on military action. These reporters have to sign a contract agreeing not to report on information that could compromise unit position, future missions and classified weapons. Embedded journalism has implications on the quality of the news reported as people often argue that embedded journalist leave themselves open to having to report from a propagandist perspective. Working alongside military units in close proximity generally sways the journalist towards the military’s viewpoint that adversely effects their objectivity.
This perception that reporters rarely cover stories which deviate from the current elected governments agenda, has been challenged by a new media construct, Wikileaks. Effectively the group have created a means for concerned members of companies, governments and other organisations to draw attention to controversial or unethical practices within the institution. In doing so they have highlighted a need for more transparency within these spheres and become recognised an an important tool for journalism. Wikileaks creator, Julian Assange has since become the targeted by corporations and governments alike since he begun the project.
Television has said to be responsible for the following;
Albert Bandura, an american psychologist from the 1960’s studied the emotion anger. He wanted to see how perceptible children were to violence. Banduara attempted to reproduce the scenes of violence through television; the experiment proved that children are highly influential at a young age, the study proved the link between TV violence and aggression and had huge implications on the regulation of television. Moral panics are responsible for increasing intensity of a particular issue which attempts to threaten social order. The results lead to general public disapproval and occasionally laws to be altered to deal with the social crisis. Propaganda is a communication technique which attempts to raise awareness to the community about a particular cause. Propaganda often states information selectively to encourage a particular response.
Censoring blocks potentially harmful information from the general public. What constitutes as harmful is decided by Ofcom to ensure that the society as a whole is happy with the content delivered to them. Censoring can help avoid disagreements both domestically and internationally. Regulation has to occur, otherwise the potential amount of investors would decline. Companies wouldn’t want to risk investing in a potentially risky television channel, which may lead to upsetting other business partners.
Global news changes every minute, it would be impossible for news channels to report on every single story that takes place every day. News channels gather news and select information which fits the media paradigm, as a result a selective news dynamic is created. However if news channels are too selective due to loyalties to private interests then it can lose credibility as a reliable news source.
It’s important that our news is governed by an external body, this helps to ensure an honest, open and balanced debate. By separating Ofcom from its regulatory duties the public lose advocacy for protecting their interests and the values of modern society in contemporary media. Fox news is an example of a television company in America, which favours the republican party, consequently its appears selective and biased.
By regulating television based on agreed societal norms we can ensure a safe viewer environment for children and allow for better respect and understanding of our increasingly multicultural society. Ofcom and the legislation that has taken place to enhance its powers is a positive example of ensuring that regulation works for public (rather than private) interest. This is only possible by being an independent body that can hold the media accountable for their broadcasts.
Some people argue regulation and censorship has been a driving force behind popular mainstream television. It has paved the way for advertising agencies to invest in extremely popular programs and use them to push a corporate or political agenda. This leaves little funding for alternative or independent media outlets to compete with. Regulation for private interests has led to the creation of ‘self-regulating journalism’, effecting the validity and quality of the news that we receive. This creates a bias in media and, by extension, in cultural perceptions of the issue at hand.