Censorship in the media is a demand from public authorities or state structures to coordinate publication of certain information, or ban or impede its spread, replication and distribution in any other way (Halbrooks, 2014). Although there are many negative attitudes towards censorship in the society that are based on the right of freedom of speech, its presence on the radio and television can be justified from political, social and economic points of view.
From the social point of view, television and radio are the best ways of manipulating citizens and determining their opinion and attitude towards all spheres of life. It is almost impossible to find the household that does not use the radio or television. For many people in modern society, the media have substituted friends, family, sport and leisure activities. Many families spend their dinner time not talking to each other about each other's achievements, wishes and plans, but in front of the TV-set, watching favourite soap operas, games and shows that influence their opinion, form worldviews, attitudes, as well as their likes and dislikes. People are told what to consider right or wrong, fashionable or desirable. It is not surprising that media is considered to be the fourth branch of government (Fields, 2008).
Nevertheless, the media have many positive functions to perform. First of all, they serve as a source of information. Due to the mass media, people have a possibility to stay in touch with the world and receive the newest information concerning political and social situation on the local and global arena. Secondly, the media can perform educational functions. There exist many programmes for people of different ages offering a wide range of educational information, starting from cooking classes and ending with house-construction and design. Thirdly, television and radio are a cheap and comfortable way of entertaining the public. The immense number of shows and serials will not leave anyone alone and will meet the requirements of everyone.
Despite all the positive effects of the media on people's lives, the society should face the fact that today's television and radio have become a means of manipulation used by the particular circle of people. As a rule, they are are both involved in the process of production and broadcasting or are constitute the power elite. The most vivid example is the sphere of advertising. In the beginning of the television era, advertisement was rather informative and neutral in its style. It was used to develop and cultivate traditional values and the way of living during that period. However, soon it became a tool of shaping people's needs and desires consequently creating the so-called culture of consumerism. The desire to purchase particular products or services arises from the blocks of information that people receive through advertising. There appears a strong feeling of the need to buy anything and everything because it will make life better - more comfortable, happy and joyful (History of Advertising and Mass Media, n.d.). As a result, the average person works harder to be able to buy more things which, perhaps, are not need even needed. Thus, the problem of hoarding is gaining its scale in the American society.
However, from a social point of view, censorship helps to protect, first of all, children form excessive violence and pornography, especially on TV. Fifty years ago there were no scenes of sexual or violent character on the air. Moreover, "honest" and sometimes shocking talks on TV-shows at the prime-time, when all the family gathers in front of the TV screen have become a norm, although the scenes of murders or obscenities can have a harmful effect on children's perception of the world and their psychological health in general (Magoon, 2010). Nowadays, it seems that there are no limits left in the media that could prevent the public from watching and hearing outrageous and shocking information. Being the main source of information for the majority of people, media shape and manipulate social culture. It can be seen on the example of the values and ethical principles propagated in the nowadays society: things that were inadmissible a few decades ago are considered to be the norm of life now.
If to continue with the pros of media censorship, it should be noted that it is a powerful means of protecting national secret information, especially in the era of terrorism and the total espionage. For example, journalists are prohibited to disclose the location of military bases or the information about military programs, weapon development and others. If this data was open to the public, it would be easily used against the safety and security of the country and its citizens. For example, if the public knew about the location of the U.S. army in Iraq - any other country facing military or political conflicts -, the lives of many soldiers would be put in danger. The terrorists would be well-informed about the location of their adversaries and would be able to easily plan and perform their attacks. The same concerns the information about army procuring. If such data was easily available (for example, the kinds of weapon used by the army, its amount or money spent on development and implementation the new weapons), it would make it easier to find weak points in the defence system, which, as a result, could lead to new attacks and new victims.
Although, the opponents of the information censorship argue that the information about the defence system and secret services should be available to the taxpayers who have the right to know what their money are spent on. What is more, using the cover of secrecy, the government can spend money on other purposes that might not be supported by the nation. However, the public should understand that, if to choose between possible economic losses and inconvenience and external or internal threats to the country and its citizens, the best decision lays in the trust in government's loyalty to its nation.
Moreover, censorship protects the right for personal freedom and privacy. It means that one can prohibit the use of personal data and information. For example, if one has a business running, he or she can limit revealing of the data if it may cause financial loss. Furthermore, as to what concerns the economy, it should be noted that the same information about specific economic events can be broadcasted from different perspectives. For example, if a country has to face some economic challenges, the panic that may be caused by the masses, based on the terrifying forecasts, can lead even to a greater recession. People will stop buying goods and services in order to economize and save money, which can cause an economic catastrophe.
Nevertheless, censorship can sometimes be used in a way that can humiliate human rights for freedom of speech and free access to all public information. In the U.S., this problem is not so widespread, but if to take a look on the third-world countries, it can be noticed that governments often use their power to correct or manipulate information. Usually, it is done to hide or misinterpret some of their unpopular actions as it can cause nation's rage or rebellion (Halbrooks, 2014). According to the survey of the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) (2012), the list of the "most censored countries" includes North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Belarus and Eritrea on the first place. In these countries, journalists often are pressed by the government. Different measures are used to prevent them from doing their job. They are often threatened and even killed because of their professional activities. For example, no journalist from abroad can enter Eritrea. All the news is checked and corrected by the government representatives. Almost the same situation might be observed in North Korea. Few foreign journalists that have the right to work in this country often send the news about the real situation in this country (CPJ, 2012). This kind of censorship should not be tolerated by the world community as it is the direct threat to the idea of democratic and free society, where an individual is seen as an equal element, but not as a part of mechanism that is aimed at satisfying the needs of the government or a dictator.
Freedom of media is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society. In the modern world, it is beyond doubts that a person should be free to know the truth and get the needed information freely and without obstacles. However, in order not to violate people's rights for privacy and psychologically healthy environment, as well as the right of the state to protect its security, a moderate censorship should be implemented on the radio, TV and other kinds of mass media.
Committee to Protect Journalists. (2012). 10 most censored countries. Retrieved from http://cpj.org/reports/2012/05/10-most-censored-countries.php
Fields, U. (2008). Media: The fourth branch of government. Retrieved from http://www.authorsden.com/categories/article_top.asp?catid=34&id=38337
Halbrooks, G. (2014). How media censorship affects the news. Retrieved from http://media.about.com/od/mediaethics/a/How-Media-Censorship-Affects-The-News.htm
History of advertising and mass media. Communication and Society. Retrieved from http://classes.laleah.com/wp1/about/week-2-history-of-advertising-and-mass-media/
Magoon, K. (2010). Media censorship. Edina, Minnesota: ABDO Publishing Company