Censorship Of Entertainment: Is It Still Relevant?
Let’s be clear that this is just as much a business-related view as it is a social one. Censorship in Malaysia has been described by our government as a means to preserve our moral standards and racial stability. This covers all forms of communication and the arts in our country.
However, it remains to be seen whether censorship is really working today. Until the arrival of the internet, consumers really had no choice in this policy. Today, while the so-called mainstream avenues for broadcast entertainment are effectively policed we have to ask ourselves whether this is now redundant because of the prevalence of the internet in our lives. Specifically, customers can easily find the content in our channels through many of the internet’s file-sharing sites. This, in the context of Catch Up TV, makes our attempts to put censored TV content on a website look odd. When you do this with your product, you’re basically driving customers to file-sharing sites as a substitute. Or pirate box-set sellers around town. And its a viable one because they’re willing to wait for the satisfaction of the full, unadulterated show, even if they have to pay a small price.
This is not a plea for the ‘if-you-can’t-beat-them-then-join-them’ solution as it is a reminder to respect the omnipresence and neutrality of the internet. Take HBO’s The Wire as a perfect example. It truly is one of TV’s greatest dramas of all time. On Malaysian TV, its censored version seems almost meaningless to adult viewers. The true portrait of Baltimore’s street gangs remains veiled. And you’ll find lots of its best scenes on YouTube anyway for free. What if we were to make it available online as Catch Up TV without censorship? In the privacy of our computers, tablets and our bedrooms, no child can easily have access to it and, with the appropriate user login-in this can also be effectively controlled. The customer is happy and so will the broadcaster be.
For our government, accepting this fact is really to understand what citizens want and to remain relevant as a government created ‘by the people, for the people.’ In reality, everyone wins because file-sharing will be reduced and the allure of pirate DVDs will surely be reduced too. Everyone wins accept the real criminals. And the money the people are willing to spend right now (because they have no where else to go) can be spent on legitimate fees to content providers who pay the government legitimate taxes. Remember, many people are already doing this with iTunes or Apple TV and a few smart workarounds and this only goes outside the country.
Thus, a smart, controlled easing of censorship has many benefits and it’s time we did a thorough study of its merits. This is really the most important hurdle to overcome before broadcasters can acknowledge the need to make any online viewing experience a viable business.