Television has been used as an information outlet since the beginning of the 18th century. Years later, the general public still uses the TV as the primary source of information, news, and entertainment. The mentioned points show how TV as a main mass media outlet is an essential communication tool for the general public. As a mass media tool that is important to the public, the TV should be awarded the freedom to showcase any concept that favors or benefits the public. However, government agencies worldwide censor information and content from television to the general public. The censoring of the video goes against the First Amendment, requiring every American to be given freedom of speech and liberty. The are censoring television limits freedom of speech and expression. In this paper, the focus is to analyze how freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental human right is infringed when censorship of television. Below is the history of television censorship before showing how it limits freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental human right.
History of Television Censorship
Censorship as a means of controlling the media and communication can be traced back to classical antiquity. However, the effect of restriction was profoundly felt with the rise and spread of the print media. The ease in production of texts created fear among the elite class in the 17th Century (Geltzer, 2017). Members of the elite class who were involved in print media censorship were the Church. After the Church, government institutions then began censoring the print media. Temporary progress was made in England, as their printing press was free from censorship when they organized protests. France, Germany, and the United States were still shackled in censorship of their print media when television emerged in the 18th century (Geltzer, 2017). The censorship culture began from the printing press and was then carried into broadcast media or television media. The primary agent of censorship this time not the Christian Church but agents of the government. Totalitarian regimes of government ensured massive control of freedom for the press within the political realm. Still, they also provided that not any news would communicate information across the border or overseas. Following the control of the print media, the implementation of the censorship of television became less challenging in the 18th century.
The television was invented in the 1920's they became famous in the 1930s to the 1950s (Geltzer, 2017). Just after the first film talkies in the year 1934, the U.S. government owned the publicly-owned waves needed to control what was aired and disposed to the people of the United States (Geltzer, 2017). The same year Congress created the Federal Communication Commission to oversee the publicly-owned broadcast frequency. The Commission was initially designed to control radio broadcasts but was also awarded the mandate to censor national television and regulate any communication sent to the public by the media.
Media Owners in the year 1977 went to court to challenge the control of television. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the television media owners claiming that control the media was indecent, and in total disagreement with the code of human rights as stipulated in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Due to this ruling the, Commission was abandoned, and television owners just thought they received the freedom to broadcast. Eighteen years later, the outcry from parents forced the government to come up with television content regulation. Parent Television Council labeled offenses against television channels claiming they aired programs that portray lesbianism, gays, and couples as positive in light. The government launched an indecency statute to the Communication Act. Through the indecency Act, the government regulated programs that were aired on television. The government also developed a fine for violent scenes, nudity, and any profanity that the government was subject to. The first indecency fine was put to WKAQ-TV after they aired comedy television skits that mimicked the then-president George W. Bush. In the year 2011, the court of appeal struck down fines from the media and recommended a better plan. The ruling paves the way for the most recent activity regarding censorship is TV ratings, where every program aired on television is rated according to the appropriate age of viewership. Evaluation is done by the FCC and the production unit of the program. Having analyzed the evolution of censorship of the media, below is further proof of how television regulation is infringing on fundamental human rights.
Television Censorship as a way of Infringing Basic Human Rights of Freedom of Speech, and Expression
First, censorship of the television is a way for the government of the day to silence opposition in all political aspects. Under the pretext of maintaining law and order, the government ransacks News and enforces censorship influencing what the journalist and the news outlets have to report. Through this method, the opposition members do not have their views presented to the public, which is the first method on how members of the opposition party are denied their human rights. In democratic nations, the censorship is not very brutal (Knight & Tribin, 2019). The media personalities are allowed to talk about things, but they are slightly doctored. Although it is still an infringement of human rights, below is an explanation of a more brutal type of offense afflicted by government agencies.
Apart from silencing opposition, the second type of fundamental human rights infringement that the government achieves through censoring television is maintaining public ignorance in matters of war and conflict. When the country's military is out on issues relating to national defense, media outlets, the News, television programs, and documentaries analyzing the war issues are gagged with the exact sentiments they should say even when they see something different. In such situations, defiant reporters are suppressed, and some news outlets are closed (Knight & Tribin, 2019). The most recent position is when CNN was almost being closed down and received threats from the executive branch of the government after reporting a possible World War Three between America and Iran following the death of one Iranian colonel of the army. Most people might argue that the U.S. is one of the democratic countries where television is not censored until they learn that the U.S. censorship authority issues a wartime practice for all the TV in America. British, which is also considered a stable democracy in the world, has a ministry of information that feeds the television with what to tell the public during times of war, which is a sign that total freedom of speech and expression of the media is yet to be achieved.
Apart from just News and politics, entertainment is also another issue censored on national television. When President Obama promoted the rights of LGBT in 2014, the TV was accredited to air films, television shows, and comic films that had gay and lesbian characters. These films, which were considered immoral less than a decade before, were censored on television. Worth noting is that apart from the government, some influential groups in American society censor television to fit their social agendas (Knight & Tribin, 2019). For example, drug barons and sports groups censor television movies to make drugs feel legal among the youth. Sports personalities dictate television programs and show how sports can make one successful in life without a college education.
As mentioned in the thesis statement censoring television is an infringement of human rights. The evolution of editing video is an indication of just how long this norm has continued over the years. The second session analyzes more than three ways in which censoring TV is an infringement of the fundamental human right of freedom of speech and expression not only in the political class, but also for journalists, and members of the public. If there is the freedom to hold a public opinion and impart information and ideas without interference given to the media, censoring television infringes on this fundamental human right and privilege.
Geltzer, J. (2017). Film Censorship in America: A State-by-State History. McFarland.Link From: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281785140_Media_censorship_Freedom_versus_responsibility
Knight, B., & Tribin, A. (2019). Opposition Media, State Censorship, and Political Accountability: Evidence from Chavez's Venezuela (No. w25916). National Bureau of Economic Research.
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