Media needs to be independent and free of any influence, regulation or bias. The three core elements of any democracy are an executive, the legislative and the judiciary, all of which must have autonomy. These are the three estates of a functioning democracy. An independent media is the fourth estate. From time to time, media censorship has become a bone of contention.
There are many who believe that a certain degree of media censorship is desirable because an organization or an individual cannot do, say or perpetuate just about anything in the name of freedom of expression. There is a contrarian argument that highlights the dangers of media censorship. Let us objectively consider the media censorship pros and cons.
Media Censorship Pros
1. Aids in the Controlling of Undesirable Content
A censored media will lead to controlling the kind of content being shown on television or being circulated on the internet. Radio stations and print media will also fall within the ambit of media censorship. There have been many instances when the media has unabashedly broadcast violent material. With adequate or appropriate media censorship, kids can be shielded from graphic and violent content. Without any checks and balances, the media can have a free run. Given the fact that media conglomerates are revenue driven and they spin or present news in a way that garners more attention, it is often seen that news channels and even print media focus more on violent contents.
2. Not Confined to Just Electronic Media
Media censorship is not confined to electronic media such as news channels and social media sites or traditional mediums like print and radio. It includes the internet. Media censorship can curb the menace of porn or sexually explicit content that is widely available on the galactic network. While parental control and discretion is the most widely accepted and recommended practice, many parents believe that media censorship will be better for their kids to remain insulated from sexual content.
3. Can Control the Natures of Advertisements
Media censorship can control the kind of products or services being promoted and the nature of the advertisements. Many ads on television, print and online are harmful for kids as well as for adults. From fake products to tall claims, people are misled into believing what is evidently not true.
4. Improve Security and the Protection of Sensitive Information
Media censorship can ensure better security for private individuals of the country and can also protect sensitive information, including secrets. There have been cases where an independent media has not initiated deferred live broadcasts, which is necessary during terror attacks or emergency situations. Independent media has often given out sensitive information, leaked state secrets and has perhaps put innocent lives in jeopardy. Media has also been accused of causing panic and unrests when there was no reason for the same. Media censorship can avert all these untoward consequences.
5. Can Influence Opinion
Media plays a role in influencing public opinion and thus it can contribute or worsen public life, law and order. There have been instances when the opinionating media has induced hate, feelings of insecurity and threat to life.
6. Keeps Facts Straightened
An independent media is expected to regulate itself and should adhere to the standards set by its own bodies, typically congregation of broadcasting agencies and guilds of editors and journalists. The self regulation doesn’t always work. Media is often biased and doesn’t present facts all the time. This calls for media censorship.
Media Censorship Cons
1. Violates Freedom of Expression
It is debatable as to what one can say or cause by what one says in the name of freedom of expression. But muzzling the voice of people is certainly not in adherence to the constitutional provisions.
2. Lead to Banning the Broadcast
Media censorship may lead to banning the broadcast of certain kinds of news and may keep the citizens uninformed. The ignorant would remain ignorant with a censored media. Authorities cannot decide what news or information the people must and must not get.
3. Can Leads to Government Funded and Controlled Broadcast
In such a scenario, the media may be compelled to toe the government’s line. In effect, everything you see, read or hear will be through apparent mouthpieces of the government. There may be no space for anti-government or anti-establishment voices. Protest may be curbed. There may not be any room for protest. This may sound alarming but sowing the seeds of media censorship can eventually land up absolute power in the laps of one agency or one individual.
4. Further Insulates Society and Makes People Indifferent
This will lead to less awareness, more biases and the societal and cultural values at large may be put in jeopardy. Politicians or regulating authorities may favor some brands or companies over others, they may propagate certain ideologies over others, religious and cultural intolerance may be facilitated and it is possible that one individual or authority will use the entire media to his or her whims and fancies.