Regulation means to decide what is morally appropriate for an audience.
The issues facing regulation are as follows:
- Morally acceptable to the majority
Morality: Is taste and decency which is a very important issue which is present in all forms of media. Producers need to be aware of what is “acceptable to the moral majority of viewers.”
Morality can vary depending on the majority of public opinion. Examples could include amoral acts of violence in action blockbusters such as Rambo or Total Recall. Moderate bloodless violence is considered OK as long as it carries a positive moral message (amoral acts can be justified by a moral outcome). Homosexuality has also been debated in moral arguments within the media, although in today’s market it is much more widely accepted. Nudity is a tricky subject as long as its done with subtlety and comedic intensions. For physical examination and/or drama it is reserved until after the 9:00 pm watershed.
Censorship: This is about classifying moral issues for particular audiences. Censorship is usually carried out by the industry itself. Various individuals from across their particular field of media are brought together to decide what is appropriate for what audience, an example of this would be the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) which operates independently of the government and are made up of people from within the advertising media sector (self-regulation).
Sometimes censorship can get really stupid, like when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were in syndication and imported by the BBC they changed the word Ninja to Hero because “Ninja was too violent” for young audiences.
Authority: media is there to provide entertainment and information so deciding who regulates what we see and hear is one of the hardest issues to address. The big question is “who has the right to wield power”. If its operated by the government their is risk that they control the media to make themselves look better than they actually are, hide things like corruption and even brainwash people with propaganda. Independence from the government and the right to police themselves may sound like a great alternative but in truth it presents the same problems, the Industry may try to hide its own faults and may publish bias content to make themselves look better than they actually are, which is lying to the consumer. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) claims to be independent of both the government and the advertising industry but this cannot be true as it is made up of individuals who work in the advertising industry. The extent of the ASA’s power covers the ability to order the withdrawal of what they deem offensive material, and provide training and education on the rules set down by CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice).
“Is it a good idea for an industry to police itself?” In my experience the industry should stay independent from the government but should answer to the moral opinions and just the plain common sense of qualified individuals who are backed up by public opinion (in other words a committee that includes laymen, individuals who represent the public). No regulatory body should ever be truly independent of its field of media, because you need individuals who know the industry to truly be able to regulate it. However there must always be sanctions to prevent immoral content becoming widely acceptable such as intense nationalism and racism.
Independence: by definition independence means “to be free from control” but as you can imagine its never that black and white. As I said before “No regulatory body should ever be truly independent of its field of media, because you need individuals who know the industry to truly be able to regulate it.” and the same applies here. However as you may or may not remember the independent press was involved in a phone hacking scandal which led to the ultimate demise of the “News of the World”. Where was the “Press Complaints Commission” when this was going on? They couldn’t do anything because they had no power to impose penalties. Let me ask this, if they had power would they have the independence to use it or would they act in the best interests of the press (in other words cover it up). It took a moral individual named Nick Davies to expose the under the table dealings of Murdoch’s News International regarding celebrities, politicians and a murder victim. With the murder victim’s phone hack there was public outcry and this shows there is a morale threshold that should not be crossed.
Conclusion: In my closing statement I would like to add that regulation should never infringe on people’s rights to freedom of speech although reserving more adult topics for after the 9:00 pm watershed is just common sense. Morality is one of my favourite subjects and when it comes to the morality of the majority of the populace there will be a lot of horns clashing. If the majority believes its wrong for women to have the same rights as men and I disagree with them, then my opinion will never get heard because I’m out-voted. Just because the majority likes it, doesn’t make it morally right. Luckily we live in a developed western society and we have equal rights laws which makes me happy, although sometimes the censorships are just insulting to the intelligence. Dumbing down historical facts to make yourself look good or someone else look bad is a personal pet peeve of mine that really has to be addressed. Films like ‘Braveheart’ take so many liberties with history that they stopped being historical at all and became more like fantasy tales. That to me at least is a big no no, if thats the kind of story you want to tell, fine but don’t bring history into it unless you plan on following the events accurately.