While most people won t admit to watching more than a couple of hours of television per week, at any given moment millions of Americans are glued to their television sets. The variety of programming offered ranges from action, to comedy, to drama. Though not all programming is suitable for all viewers, as adults living in a free country, we have the right to choose what we want to watch and what we don t. Censorship, as defined by Britannica, is the changing or the suppression or prohibition of speech or writing that is condemned as subversive of the common good.
Any time a program is censored before the public is able o view it, we are being robbed of our right to choose what we wish to see; another person has chosen for us. Most of the controversy over television programming is focused around audiences insatiable appetite for violence. As time goes by, the amount of violence in television seems to escalate. This is why Attorney General Janet Reno and others have started a crusade against television violence. They feel that the level of violence in programming these days somehow desensitizes people, especially impressionable young people, to real life violence.
Though events, such as the youths who were killed imitating a scene from The Program n which characters laid down on the center strip of a highway as cars passed, seem to bolster this idea, there is no conclusive evidence that violence in television is in any way contributing to violent behavior in children. Although a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, entitled Violence and Youth, stated that higher levels of viewing violence on television are correlated with increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behavior, it also stated that poverty is the main determinant of violence.
The fact is, there would still be violence in the world even if children ere raised bereft of violent programming. Inevitably, if blame is to be assigned to anyone for violent tendencies in children, it goes to parents. Parents should be on hand to provide guidance to children in all aspects of their lives. It has always been the duty of the broadcasters to determine the appropriateness of television programming. Recently, due to strong government pressure, the television industry has adopted a rating system similar to that used by the motion picture industry.
The new system is depicted as a small square with various letters and numbers which declare the level of violence, sexuality, nd crude language in a program as well as the intended audience. This rating system is supposedly voluntary, yet modern technology has brought censorship to the twenty-first century with the introduction of the V-chip and recent legislature that requires all television manufacture s to include one in all new televisions. The V-chip is a device that uses the rating system to block programs, deemed inappropriate, from being viewed.
The problem this brings to mind is best stated by Daniel E. Katz of the American Civil Liberties Union s legislative council. He asks, Would the V-chip s automatic censors block out uch violent dramas as Schindler s List, Roots, or Gone with the Wind? How about other such critically acclaimed films such as Saving Private Ryan or The Godfather, which contain amounts of violence which are necessary to their storylines? Some programs use violence for positive or even historical purposes, such as a Civil War documentary.
Should anybody be blocked from seeing these programs because of the violence? There are currently other devices on the market that allow parents to monitor what their children can watch on television. One such device is a cable ox with a lock that is operated with a key and has the ability to keep certain channels from being viewed. There is also a device called The Telecommander that will only allow children to watch preselected programs, these make the V-chip unnecessary.
Other arguments against the V-chip are that it is based on a rating system that is far too vague or overly broad. The National Coalition on Television Violence is an organization that opposes censorship yet is dedicated to cleaning up television programming. They point out that sex, language, and mature content are all mingled together and rated for overly broad age ategories. The right to decide what we want to see and what we don t was granted to us by the Constitution of the United States Of America.
I might not want to watch a show in which an ax-murderer hacks up ten victims, but I must be able to make that decision on my own. All legislation must be made with circumspection. Censorship of any kind is wrong; it is prevalent not in countries of democracy, but in dictatorships. Censorship is the tool of a fascist. The best way to control what you or your family watches is not with the V-chip, or by using the rating system, it s by using your remote control — change the channel.