Turkey slapping - should Big Brother Australia be banned from TV

See: 2006-07-05 Shun the crass, but why ban - The Age

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment, but disapproval of values or practices do not constitute valid reasons for banning.

They are valid reasons for political pressure on media companies to "self-regulate" or "self-censor". There is nothing unhealthy about self-censorship being "encouraged" by an estimate of the level of reaction from the community. It is far better to guide social practice through these "intuitive" assessments of "the right thing to do" (and what happens if I don't !) than through vain attempts to write laws. Legal codes do provide some protection when brokering within cultures that have very high levels of diversity (or very low levels of tolerance). But, their complexity and the impossibility of defining all possible present and future circumstances make them increasingly oppressive, inefficient and increasingly counterproductive.Annie knows, as most "right-minded" people, that Big Brother should never have been put to air - but it represents a drift along a continuum rather than clean break with the past. The law would fail to make a distinction.Just imagine the response to my plea:"The AFL's values undermine us all and are more dangerous that terrorism; The AFL's misguides the audience; The AFL's exploits the participants; The AFL's values are shallow and untrue and lead to unhappiness; The AFL inspires terrorists and me to despise our society; The AFL diverts attention away from important issues affecting peoples lives; The AFL is an insidious diversion from the real loss of freedom of speech in the proposed cross media law reform proposals; The AFL is a right wing diversion to confuse people about issues of freedom of speech and choice; I have a friend who works for the AFL is ashamed and wants it to stop; I don't know how to keep my spirits up when I think of the AFL; Howard appears to have moral fibre by attacking the AFL and that is good for John Howard, particularly now that Costello has confirmed that he is a liar and has no moral fibre"Not far off my real sentiments !! And most statements taken separately would be defensible. To me, Howard is right but far too faint-hearted. He should begin a debateShould Big Brother be censored ?
Censorship: Should it occur at all ?
Every society on earth exercises formal or informal censorship. Those who profess to be against all censorship, merely wish to see censorship relaxed. When confronted with clear (and real) extremities, they resile (choose one or more from a list including: child pornography, extreme violence, incitement to treason/ terrorism/ racial violence). The total absence of censorship would mean that the representation, recording and communication of acts of evil would be sanctioned as long as the communicator had no part in the act itself e.g. I would be free to sell a movie of a child being sexually assaulted and killed as long as I had no part in its production, or it was a simulation. Western societies have already drifted quite close to this ludicrous situation due to the inability of any law to deal with any continuum - as there is no clear line in logic or language, the line is defined in terms of social acceptance. Commercialism ensures that social acceptance is continually widened (the boundary events are always the most profitable e.g. "turkey slapping" so they are given greatest exposure and thus create social acceptance in readiness for the next relaxation of standards). Countries dominated by Muslim rulers are rightly contemptuous of the degraded nature of our media where the word "freedom" is indeed nothing more than "license".
Answer: Most definitely !

If, yes under what circumstances ?
The kernel of the debate ! Again, we return to the two major deficiencies of democracy - that it is prone to populism (especially in Australia due to a strong anti-intellectual strain in our culture) and that it can lead to a dictatorship by a majority. A populist can argue that only "wowsers", the "stuck up" or "killjoys" would want to stop "Big Brother Uncut" or the film Baise-moi etc. The argument rests on the "common-sense" belief that "I could watch it and not be harmed". This argument neglects both the cumulative effect of small exposures as well as the social effect on the whole society when just one person is tipped into criminality by the exposure. The populist would use the principle that government should only interfere with freedom as an extreme last resort, while stressing the widespread perception that the law is steadily eroding basic freedoms. Thus the banning of a film would be yet another interference, and worth opposing in principle regardless of the merits of the film.
Answer: Censorship should only used where communication would result in significant demonstrable harm to the viewer or to the producer. The viewer may claim that no harm will arise, but if it can be demonstrated that significant harm results from the viewing, then censorship would be justified e.g. children viewing sex or violence may say that they are not harmed but if measurements of attitudes or actions reveal significant harm, then censorship from these viewers would be justified.

Does use of a limited public asset (TV broadcasting frequency) imply a public duty to do good (or at least do no harm) ?
Television is currently a special case because the public licenses to broadcast are currently limited, unlike the capacity to print newspapers or provide online content. Within the next decade, this distinction will disappear as the ability to offer video information to the world will available to nearly every individual (just as the ability to offer text and images to the world is now).In the meantime, there is a strong argument that these limited licenses should be used to contribute to the public good, and certainly should do no harm. It would seem unreasonable to argue that limited public assets should be given to those with no consideration to the public good - even though that is in fact the current situation.
Answer: Yes

Is Big Brother morally or socially good, bad or neutral ?
The central purpose of Big Brother is to create stress by: isolating them from their normal social support networks (people, work, recreations); by ordering them to complete meaningless tasks in a highly competitive environment with the powerful reward and punishment of large sums of money; to deliberately encourage them to act co-operatively while requiring them to be disloyal to win the game; to stress the importance of popularity over principle through the anonymous shallow judgment of public voting; to encourage voyeurism through the exposure of highly personal activities to the public; ... to name a few.
Big Brother is a classic example of the strong tendency of globalization (in this case, media globalization) to actively undermine cultural autonomy in order to promote globally consistent markets. It also demonstrates that commercialism has a strong tendency to lower any standards of practice (moral standards, safety standards, employment standards etc) due to the absence of any guide to action other than the one dimensional inhuman measure of profit.
Answer: Big Brother is unequivocally bad.

Does Big Brother fall under the general justification for censorship
Any free society must tolerate a very wide range of "bad" (e.g. risky motor bike rides, cigarettes, table top dancing) because so much of the "pursuit of happiness" involves them. All these "bad" activities are controlled (and often taxed !) by society to some extent in recognition and compensation for their "badness". Nevertheless, they are tolerated as essential ingredients of freedom. Big Brother is definitely in this category. There are already (totally ineffective) restrictions on the broadcast times of its worst aspects (Big Brother uncut).
Answer: No. The argument for demonstrable harm could be made in relation to many of the aspects mentioned above, but the relatively mild degree (in our debauched society) would ensure that any "average" or "reasonable" person would not ban the show.

Does Big Brother meet the higher duty implied by TV broadcast license ?
If governments asserted the novel view that public assets should contribute to the public good, then Big Brother would certainly be a case for a review of the broadcasting license. Unfortunately, the normal experience over the last few decades is that government only regulates for harm minimization rather than promotion of public good. The reason that governments rarely do this anymore is bound up in the retreat from any "shared values". To promote something is to reveal that it is valued. To value a something specific (even such as "motherhood") is anti-diverse, a slur on all "non-mothers". Governments much prefer to be thanked for fixing a hundred problems, rather than be blamed for planning a healthier happier society that does not provide a solution to every problem.
Answer: No. While TV is still broadcast using a restricted public asset, Big Brother contradicts the requirement to contribute to the public good and to do no harm. therefore it should not be broadcast on public television.

Are there other social control mechanisms which could prevent broadcasts that harm ?
"Just change the channel" is a common response from defenders of Big Brother. This is of course, an effective method of social control. In some countries it has been used to partial effect. Other strategies have included street protests. Other strategies could be tried (such as the successful lobbying against advertisers used by the US Moral Majority). The strategies commonly promoted by the "left" such as "direct action" could also be effective - e.g. physical invasion of the studio and disruption of the broadcast. I support such actions, in exactly the same way as I support most industrial action, as part of the variety pressure valves needed to maintain a healthy democratic society. All of these strategies require sacrifice by the citizens involved (e.g. pay, fines, freedom, amusing TV viewing). These sacrifices need to me made willingly without compensation if the society is to remain responsive and avoid extremes through complacency. I hope someone tries some of them in Australia.

Conclusions: Censorship is necessary in every society. Where to "draw the line" is always a matter for debate. The line is being actively and continuously redrawn by the forces of evil (globalization and commercialization). Use of public broadcast licenses require a higher duty of care than for print or internet. Big brother is definitely bad. Big Brother should not be censored. Big brother should not be shown on public TV. Direct action should be supported in order to discourage bad social tendencies such as Big Brother.

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