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Censorship of the media is a hotly contested topic. The public has declared that there is excessive violence portrayed on television and that this violence ultimately negatively affects viewers, especially children.
Censorship is the regulation and control of information and ideas that are circulated among people within a society. It refers to the examination of electronic and print media for the purposes of altering and/or suppressing parts of the media thought to be inappropriate and/or offensive (Microsoft Encarta 97) The implication of censorship is that it is necessary for the protection of the viewing public. The following is a discussion of violence portrayed in the media, its impact on the viewing public, and censorship of the media. This paper also provides a viable solution to the negative impact of the violence in the media. Violence In the Media and Its Impact It’s inconceivable not to think that television couldn’t influence our attitudes and behaviors. Neil Postman makes this point by outlining America’s movement from a typographic society to telegraphic society. (Postman, 1985) This is not to suggest passivity. Much of what is aired on television is fictional. However, proponents of censorship argue that television creates a false sense of reality and influences not only young children but teenagers as well.
In one incident after viewing the movie The Program, a teen-aged boy was killed and two others were injured after lying down along the centerline of a highway. The teenagers were imitating a scene from the movie. Touchstone Pictures removed the scene from the movie as a result of the tragedy with the teenagers. Another incident in Ohio, five-year-old Austin Messner set his parent’s house a fire killing his sister after viewing the popular MTV cartoon Beavis and Butthead. In response MTV moved the program to a time slot four hours later. However, did not claim responsibility. (Microsoft Internet’s explorer) The implication is that people are passive beings easily influenced by what they see. Another implication is that all people have shared experiences and will think and react alike. Neil Postman advances the thought that television viewing is our way of knowing ourselves and the world ( Postman, 1985)
E.B. White wrote “I believe that television is going to be the test of the modern world, and in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our own vision, we shall discover either a new and unbearable disturbance of the general peace or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television.” (Murray, 1995) White was correct. Television is either beneficial or detrimental to society, perhaps both. Certainly, there exist studies that would equally support both theories. A series of studies conducted by Seymour Feshbach and Robert D. Singer suggests that television violence does not promote violence in children, they explicitly state that the issue “arises from a concern over an important contemporary social issue.” (Feshbach & Singer, 1977) After analyzing several social and experimental psychology studies David Howitt and Guy Cumberbatch arrived at a similar conclusion. They concluded that many studies didn’t specify reasons for why correlation was made between television violence and violence in society. (Howitt and Cumberbatch, 1975) Albert Bandura on the other hand set the precedence with his studies correlating the viewing of television violence and promoting violence among viewers. His various studies provided strong evidence of televised violence producing aggressive and/or violent behavior in viewers. (Bandura et al. 1963) The innumerable and varied studies on this subject suggest that there exist no definitive answer.