Now Showing: Free Speech

A major issue in blogging is that of free speech, do we have a right to offend and can/should it be punished. This issue is also just as topical in television and its content.

Before 1987 a Freedom Doctrine was in place in the U.S that made it compulsory for any show to be balanced in its handling of news or controversial topics, it was also an environment that sought to protect commercial interests by not alienating any audience segments, so all shows were harmless and inoffensive like cheery sitcoms e.g. Bewitched, children’s programming e.g. Disney and entertainment variety shows e.g. The Ed Sullivan Show. Anything offensive or satirical like South Park or Jon Stewart etc was absolutely non-existent but that changed. Following 1987 and the abolition of the doctrine, news programs began to reflect political bias more strongly like the awesome Fox News which launched in 1996 and the more controversial satirical shows came in large numbers beginning with the 1989 launch of The Simpsons and continuing.

It is safe to say that following this trend we have become a society of more acceptance toward people exercising free speech for the sake of comedy or opinion, for the most part.

The reason I say for the most part is that there are varied sources who say people who are behind shows that may offend or offer sharp satire do receive backlash; one of these sources is http://mercedesmccormick.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/30-rocks-use-of-satire/ a 30 Rock-centred blog who reports that the show has a large amount of “not-so-fond critics”, “non-believers” and that series creator and writer Tina Fey has received a large amount of “grief” for the content on her show. While that blog may be correct, it also ends with an equally correct point that at the end of the day “[30 Rock] is still funny”. I agree that no show can ever be totally free of criticism, particularly one that pokes fun at society left, right and centre but at the end of the day it is quality that wins the battle and negative feedback can only remain just that; an exercise of free speech regarding a show that exercises free speech.

Although the line of what’s acceptable has been stepped over in numerous occasions on many shows, to my knowledge there has yet to be anything so bad as to warrant mass protest, censorship or cancellation. We will always appreciate quality no matter what, a pleasing illustration of this is the fact that the very satirical and forthcoming shows like 30 Rock and the Daily Show continue to be very successful in ratings and the winning of awards and many blogs that put forth strong and perhaps controversial opinion do tend to attain solid readerships; tv like blogging can enjoy a free platform for whatever expression they choose and long may it continue.

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By The Television Code Posted in Other

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