Monday, November 19, 2012

Censorship in Today's Media: Why it Exists and its Effects

Censorship in the media is a much debated topic in the media due to the question of ethics and how it affects the news presented to the audience. Many news and media companies practice self-censorship by picking and choosing certain news stories to share with the public due to motives of self-interest or fear of hurting the company or a supporting advertiser. Sometimes censorship is used to protect the public or youth from explicit or shocking material and so the question arises: Is it ever okay to censor the news? Disagreements arise on the ethics of omitting information and censoring stories and pictures from the audience. In addition, one has to wonder if people were less inclined to participate in activities that are often censored today (such as violent or sexual activities) before TV and media became so integral to our society.

Many news organizations and journalists practice self-censorship, where they decide what news to share with the audience. There are many reasons for doing this, some of which interfere with some people's view of journalistic ethics. Some news companies won't report on a story if it will hurt the news organization or one of its supporters. For example, if there was some sort of scandal with a company that supported a news station, that station would most likely not report on the scandal for fear of losing support or giving the station a bad image. Losing a supporter or investor would lead to negative economic consequences. In fact, according to a survey of about 300 journalists and news executives by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review, 35% of journalists say that a news story that would hurt the financial interests of a news organization often goes unreported and 29% of stories are overlooked that would have a negative affect on advertisers. 
Does Censored News have an Effect on the Audience?
Often censorship is used to block content from youth audiences or to shield the public from sexually explicit or violent content. While many people feel that exposure to violent or sexually explicit behavior in the media (such as through movies or video games) leads to the increase of these actions in real life. The opposing view questions, would people really be less inclined to participate in these activities without the influence of the media?

Debates in the Real World
 The court case Reno v. ACLU decided that the Internet (increasingly popular form of media) was a free speech zone with no restrictions. Yet some organizations are still trying to restrict content and censor the media. For example, COPA (Child Online Protection Act) continues to try to get the Supreme Court to review its act restricting youth from accessing certian materials on the internet. 

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