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History of Censorship

Discuss About The Cultural Orientation In Ad Humor Journal.

Censorship is the overpowering of speech or removal of some communicative material that are thought to be harmful, objectionable, inconvenient or sensitive to the media organizations or the government by a censor. Censorship is mostly present in the entertainment industry. Sports and entertainment usually affect the common interest of the public, and therefore, they are subject to some certain types of governmental regulation. Nonetheless, the efforts to regulate or censor films and presentations usually affect screenwriters, free speech rights of playwrights, filmmakers, distributors, and performers. In this regard, this paper intends to discuss the significance and role of censorship in the entertainment industry by first discussing a brief history of the regulation and the background of the sports and entertainment industry in Singapore, and finally how censorship impacts the industry.

Entertainment industry, which is repeatedly being condemned by rights groups, is not in any way unusual in the world. It is evident that it has had its roots in the ancient times when leaders were seen imposing restrictions on the press so that they could prevent the spread of some irrelevant information. In particular, they could prevent the information they thought could challenge their power base and the system of belief. Communities, religious organizations, governments and kings widely used censorship throughout history. However, the motive of censorship did not change from region to region despite the differences of the geographical location, culture, religion and tradition.

Censorship was first found in the ancient Greek and Roman empires and in ancient China with the prominent philosophers such as Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and Socrates (469-399 BC) being considered as some of the first victims. They were all punished by the religious leaders and the rulers for challenging the established power base and the belief system. In 213 B.C, Emperor Qin in China ordered the burning of books as he wanted to unify the belief system and rewrite his own history. In China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument to help regulate the moral and political life of the society (Newth, 2010). Nonetheless, flourishing democratic systems and respect for the human rights in Western hemispheres gave great chances for freedom of the press and diminished the purpose of censorship in the places during the 17th, 18th and the 19th centuries.

Even though freedom of the press is not taken seriously in the democratic world, the media under authoritarian regimes is still today trying to wrestle with the policies imposed on it. Until today, countries are still fighting for their rights of freedom particularly on expression. Although rights and freedoms have progressed over the past decades, most countries all over the world still make use of censorship techniques and motives that were being used in the past. There are three primary reasons why censorship was used in by rulers to consolidate their power and justify what they did: (1) In order to retain their political power (2) so that they could uphold their theological dogma, and (3) so that they could maintain their community standards. However, retention of political power or censorship is what is mostly practiced by governments so that they can prevent criticisms of their rule and to silence the dissent voices.

Background of Censorship in Singapore

In Singapore, censorship has long dogged artists. They find it as a dull ache containing an occasional painful twist (Millet, 2006). There have been quite a number of changes in the law one of which the Media Development Authority (MDA) proposed the public consultation to the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (MDA, 2010). According to the authority, the move was empowering even though the caveats and the myriad of punitive measures have left the industry depressed with the fact that it might encourage self-censorship.

The entertainment industry is to be trained by the Media Development Authority to make sure everyone complies with the classification guidelines of the authority (Tan, 2014). However, the problem is that not everyone consents to the guidelines. Besides, that, people may also not agree with what the MDA may use as performance. According to the MDA, they plan to ensure consistency and the groups that are found miss-classifying performances are likely to get a fine of up to $5,000 and their licenses may also get revoked. It is therefore, no wonder that most people find it hard reconciling these measures with the suggested progressiveness of co-regulation.

Although it may have good intentions, it still goes back to the censorship template of permitting the authorities to be the arbiter of the public interest instead of trusting what a reporter does and that the audience may be in a position to judge the work of an artist in a critical way (Tan, 2014). According to the 2010 Censorship Review Committee censorship was necessary even though it was a blunt tool (Chong, 2017). The committee affirmed the need for consumers to decide what they want to view and what they do not. It would be difficult for the government to watch the society all the time, and especially in the modern world where everything is digital and the graphic materials are easily accessed.

Nonetheless, censorship, according to MDA, is meant to expedite the creation of an environment that enables people in the entertainment industry to embark on greater ownership. This, in turn, helps them become responsible for what they say or do in the media to ensure they meet the standards of the community (Smith, 2016). Aside from that, censorship will also help them to be able to engage in a direct way with the society.

Multicultural, Multiracial and Censored Singapore

Singapore has gone through the process of nation building which has had to meet the requirements of ethnic and linguistic plurality while at the same time instilling an overall sense of nationhood in its people. With regards to this, they find it necessary to practice equality, accommodate the many racial requirements in the society, and further contribute to the construction of national identity.

The Impact of Censorship in Entertainment Industry

Since 1965 when Singapore got its independence, it has been ruled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) that imposed control on media development. The founding father of PAP and of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, once stated that freedom of speech and of the press must be secondary to the superseding requirements of Singapore and the superiority of the intention of an elected government (Lee & Lim, 2008). Initially, the entertainment sensationalism has contributed to racial riots and bloodshed. In turn, there has been dire need for tight censorship in this multi-racial and multi-religious society so that there can be maintenance of social order and harmony.

Entertainment in Singapore has, therefore, developed within the context of high level of censorship (Millet, 2006). There are limits on what can be said and what people choose to say to the public. Thus, this restriction may partially account for the apathetic entertainment industry in Singapore.

Censorship has been taken as a relevant and important tool that is meant to protect both the national and social interests (MDA, 2010). Nonetheless, the increasing choices of the society for arts and cultures have upset the status quo. Censorship is found to disallow content that destructs national interests and public order. The sensitive issues such as lifestyles like being lesbian or gay, race, and religion are taboos. Censorship is largely accepted and supported in Singapore with the justification based on its historical and socio-political grounds. This is so, because they view it as a tool that is necessary to the society for it to function properly and to maintain harmony and peace.

However, there have been quite a number of debates that censorship inhibits the development of creativity and social capital as it is blamed to prevent vibrancy and diversity in entertainment. Besides that Leong (2008) argued that censorship has affected the development of the entertainment industry in Singapore partly because MDA tried to add some subliminal texts on original presentations making them loose their entertainment values.

Article 14 of the Singapore Constitution indicates that every citizen has a right to freedom of expression, speech and peaceful assembly and association. The government adopts a two-faced approach to civil and political liberties. The rights are subjected to the clauses that state that Parliament is capable of restricting the rights in the foreign relations, interest of national security and public order or morality.

There are several laws that restrict freedom of expression. For instance, the Broadcasting Act permits the MDA to censor all the broadcast media, internet sites, as well as, the other media (Chong, 2017). This law also permits the information minister to restrict foreign broadcasters that are known to engage in domestic politics. Aside from that, the government may use this law to restrict households that receive a broadcaster’s programming and a fine of up to $100,000 is liable to the broadcasters who fail to comply. The Sedition Act also prohibits any words, speech, act or expression that is thought to incite disaffection against the government, incite hatred to other people, or create hostility among different races. The Public Entertainment and Meetings Act prohibit public entertainment without a police permit. The police routinely reject the applications of permits for political protests, assemblies, and demonstrations.

Conclusion

Clearly, censorship affects the society in different ways, including presentations, movies, music, books and other aspects in our daily lives. Even though most people may feel that censorship is not good and should not be a part of the society that emphasizes freedom of speech and expression, censorship is essential and helps in the growing of individuals. It is needed in the entertainment industry and helps in making the world a better place since it creates a better living environment.

References

Chong, T. (2017). Arts Education in Singapore: Between Rhetoric and Reality. SOJOURN: Journal Of Social Issues In Southeast Asia, 32(1), 107-136.

Lee, Y. H. & Lim, E. A. C. (2008). What's funny and what's not: The moderating role of cultural orientation in ad humor. Journal of Advertising, 37(2), 71-84.

MDA. (2010). Censorship Review Committee (CRC). Retrieved May 16, 2018, from: https://mda.gov.sg/Public/Consultation//Pages/CRC.aspx

Millet, R. (2006). Singapore cinema. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet Pte Ltd.

Newth, M. (2010). The long history of censorship. Beacon for freedom. Retrieved May 16, 2018 from https://www.beaconforfreedom.org/liste.html?tid=415&art_id=475

Smith, P. (2016). Nation-building, Censorship, and 'Ill-Will' in Singaporean Comics. Journal Of Popular Culture, 49(1), 97-115.

Tan, C. (2014). Art of censorship in Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/art-of-censorship-in-singapore

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