Media - Censorship & Regulation

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Media and Writing 2011

Assignment 1: Topic 2
Discuss the differences between regulation and censorship by referring specifically to the work of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Film and Publications Board.

This essay will be looking at the similarities and differences between Regulation and Censorship in the media, both in general and in relation to the Film and Publications Board and The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). The theoretical works of Duncan and Glenn, Fourie, and Burns will be examined and applied along with the Film and Publications Act of 1996 and a couple of articles (by Fowler and MacAskill) to illustrate how regulation and censorship works in day-to-day life. And finally two case studies involving regulation and censorship will be examined, one international one and one South African one. This will be so the reader can get a better understanding of the ways in which censorship and regulation can be applied.

In order to fully understand the concepts of Regulation and Censorship as discussed in this essay the reader must first understand what is meant by the terms.

The technical definition of Censorship as is applicable to this essay according to the South African Pocket Oxford Dictionary (ed.3) is, “·n. An official who examines material that is to be published and bans anything considered offensive or a threat to security. ·v. Ban unacceptable parts of (a book, film, etc).” (South African Pocket Oxford Dictionary (ed.3), 2002). According to Y. Burns censorship means the “limitation of freedom of expression” (Burns, 2001: 169) and derives from the Latin censere which means “to give opinion or to assess” (Burns, 2001: 171). She claims that the main role of state censorship is to curtail any immoral, pornographic, blasphemous matter or religious beliefs which do not follow in accordance with “state-imposed religion” (Burns, 2001: 171). However she also states that in the new age “religious intolerance in the form of censorship will no longer be tolerated” (Burns, 2001: 171), a statement that is backed up by Fourie when he says that most democratic societies repeal censorship laws and replace them with Freedom of information laws (Fourie, 2009: 34). This shows that freedom of expression and therefore human rights violations cannot be suppressed for long. Burns breaks censorship down into two sub-sections, those of ‘self-censorship’ (which will be examined later in the essay) and ‘state censorship’ (as mentioned earlier). State censorship is meant to protect public morality form issues such as “sexually explicit material” (Burns, 2001: 176) which could contain content like “child pornography and visual representations of violent sex, bestiality and degrading sex which constitutes incitement to harm” (Burns, 2001: 176). Censorship is not only something that is imposed, it is also done voluntarily. This is called ‘self-censorship’ and is often done as the consequences that need to be faced when inappropriate content is published indiscriminately are often severe (and expensive) and more often than not involve the Press Ombudsman. Self-censorship in the advertising world is maintained by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who runs under the belief that it is better to control themselves therefore keeping external costs (e.g. Lawyers to deal with lawsuits) at a minimum. Should self-censorship fail Burns also says that in some cases censorship is acceptable, in the case of: sexual morality, national security, military security and safety, copyright, and judicial proceedings (Burns, 2001: 172-174).

The technical definition of Regulation according to the South African Oxford Pocket Dictionary (ed.3) is, “·n. 1 a rule made by an authority. 2 the action of regulating” (South African Oxford Pocket Dictionary, 2002). Regulation has the same purpose as Censorship however it is backed up by...
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