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TV Censorship

A glimpse into television censorship: Is it really necessary?

The social problem that I’m addressing is centered around censorship on network television. I liked the Wikipedia definition of censorship, which is “a suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.”
In the U.S., censorship is currently being regulated by the FCC. The FCC defines and regulates censorship through the “Children’s Television Act Of 1990” which was enacted by Congress on October 18, 1990 and the Television Violence Act, which became law on December 1, 1990. These are the written policies for censorship that exist. Other forms of censorship exist as well, for example, when live broadcasts are altered due to unexpected events. Throughout my life, I’ve watched television without really thinking about the “behind-the-scenes” censorship that has been mandated and put in place for my protection. Fact is that I’m probably just busy thinking about other things. Does that mean that I don’t care about what’s being broadcasted? No, I do care. But, I’m not sure how most Americans feel about the issue; Freedmen’s book references a CNN exit poll that revealed how “22 per cent of the electorate said that ‘moral values’ mattered most to them.” (Freedman, 2005) That’s good, right? I think life, as I have morally lived it, would have been different if censorship didn’t exist at all. But I also understand that there are two sides to the debate. My goal with this analysis is to find out what other opinions exist on the topic of censorship and to entertain abolishing it altogether as a solution. 

To start with, there are arguments against television censorship such as protecting our First Amendment for free speech. It’s not too hard for me to understand how a person doesn’t want to be told what to say or watch on television. I think it’s because most people like to think that they are mature enough to handle anything, and they want to know what’s really going on with their country and other news throughout the world. For them, television censorship is not solely viewed as being enforced to protect children and adults from viewing harmful material. They add that censorship can also be used by our governments to hide propaganda from the public. For example, while conducting my research, I viewed the Robert Greenwald film, Outfoxed , where former Fox News journalists and employees state that they were forced to push a “right-wing” point of view or risk their jobs. This was a new perspective of censorship for me. Some of the footage showed how management would cut off and interrupt live news programming when left winged activists tried to have a voice. So I’ve learned that it’s not always about the dirty words, the violence, or the nudity that we fear will end up on TV being viewed by our kids. In regards to the dirty words you can never say on television, in 1972, George Carlin, an American comedian was known for expressing his views on how seven particular words (which I will avoid writing here) could not be used on television broadcasts. Since then, some of the words are now starting to be used in network television to some degree. Overall, I feel that the arguments against censorship are misinterpreted and that society needs new policy to be written that puts more trust in the people. 

There are also arguments for television censorship. There have been reports that associate aggressive behavior in youth and adults with what we watch on television and how often we watch. The FCC currently states on their website that people in the U.S. spend approximately three hours a day watching television. Factors that influence negative behavior vary throughout life and Mary Chayko writes about how we should be protecting what she calls “life stages,” where as a society, people who are at the same stage in life have much in common with one another that cannot be shared or understood by people in different stages. (p.586) I feel that developing minds are considered by many to be fragile. 

I’m not exactly sure what the perfect solution for television censorship policy would be, because people in favor of it believe strongly that the society needs to protect itself against violent and pornographic material. But I have one suggestion that I feel strongly about. I think that the U.S. should be the first to adopt a new policy that offered free college degrees for life to everyone on the planet. This would probably solve most every problem we have as a country. And why not, it can all be done electronically now, so it really could be free. It shouldn’t cost a dime compared to the money lost to lack of knowledge. So, in this case, education is the first step to enforcing policies that work, because the policies are finally understood by the majority. I also feel that policies need to be revisited every five years instead of every forty years or longer. That way, new technologies and media delivery methods could have a chance to be treated differently. 

I believe that abolishing television censorship would stabilize our society, and that as long as we populate the media with issues, debates, and controversy over free speech within other mediums, we will most likely always have to worry about censorship within television. All of us as U.S. citizens need to rethink the meaning behind television censorship and start shifting over to more of a global conscience in order to evolve to a richer method of communication. With the advent of the internet, and the overall global cultural shock our nation has been through within the past 40 years, maybe it’s time for a major change where we push all forms of censorship outside our comfort zone and abolish it. We can always push it back. 


Chayko, M. (1993). How you "Act Your Age" When You Watch TV. Sociological Forum. Retrieved March 13, 2011 from 

Freedman, D. (2088). The Politics of Media Policy, Polity Press, MA, USA

Greenwald, R. (Producer & Director). (2004) Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism. United States: Robert Greenwald Productions.