Friday, January 17, 2014
Lecture 2 – Censorship
• From Henry Reichman (2001):
o “Censorship is the removal, suppression, or restricted circulation of
literary, artistic, or educational materials – of images, ideas, and
information – on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise
objectionable in light of standards applied by the censor.”
• We can call this “classic censorship.”
Questions Raised by the Definition of Censorship
• Who can be a censor?
o Parents (biggest group)
• How much suppression counts as censorship?
o Wealthsharing system
o Can take out part of the expression or make it difficult to rely that
• What counts as speech or expression?
What Counts as Speech?
• Expression in print; books, newspapers, magazines, internet, yard signs, etc.
• Spoken expression; at work, personal vs. public, highly regulated environments
such as schools
o What people instead of writing down, say in words
• Marketing; advertising, packaging
• Art and entertainment; movies, music, TV shows, photographs, etc.
• Political actions: campaign donations, flag burning
Key Moments in American Censorship
• 1791: First Amendment to the Constitution:
• Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting
the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or
the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a
redress of grievances.
• 1934: Communications Act establishes the FCC
Key Moments in American Censorship
• 1952: Burstyn v. Wilson • 1966: Freedom of Information Act
o Government said that free speech should be expanded to movies
o Makes it compulsory for the federal government to release most info about
government documents and federal work
o This was a big step to government informacy and censorship
• 1972: Miller v. California:
o The courts decided that obscene events can be censored
o In this sense the court created three questions in order to figure out what is
1. Whether applying temp community standards the average person
would find that the expression is prurient (having appealing to
people’s base desires and things that are socially acceptable)?
2. Whether the expression depicts sexual conduct in an offensive
3. Whether the expression as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic,
political or scientific value?
o All three must be satisfied in order for something to be considered obscene
Key Points About Canadian Censorship
• 1982: Section 1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the
rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed
by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
o Section 2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including
freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.
• Hate speech is criminal (see textbook reading this week).
• CRTC (Canadian equivalent of FCC) does not explicitly regulate broadcast
content for obscenity.
o Hate speech must be very severe in order for any action can be take
• Canada Border Services Agency enforces censorship of obscenity.
• Obscenity is defined differently than in the U.S.
o Obscene material contains the undo exploitation of sex, crime, horror,
o It was based on the presumption that when the audience were introduced
to sex an violence it developed harmful attitudes and behaviours among
the audience (victims are harmed especially women)
Trends Over Time in Censorship Regulations • Overall move toward reduction in censorship, especially for “moral” and political
issues; reduction comes from increasing protection of speech about moral or
• Trends are less clear for commercial speech (relating to business interests,
especially around copyright) and relating to governmental activity (government
More and Less Protected Expression
• Most Protected: political speech, intellectual ideas
o Some form of expression have a lot of protection