Let us suppose that you are in the position of a parent. Would you allow your children to read any book they wanted to without first checking its contents? Would you take your children to see any film without first finding out whether it is suitable for them? If your answer to these questions is “yes”, then you are either extremely permissive, or just plain irresponsible. If your answer is “no”, then you are exercising your right as a parent to protect your children from what you consider to be undesirable influences. In other words, by acting a censor yourself, you are admitting that there is a strong case for censorship.
Now, of course, you will say that it is one thing to exercise censorship where children are concerned and quite another to do the same for adults. Children need protection and it is the parents’ responsibility to provide it. But what about adults? Aren’t they old enough to decide what is good for them? The answer is that many adults are, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that all adults are like yourself. Censorship is for the good of society as a whole. Highly civilised people might find it possible to live amicably together without laws of any kind: they would just rely on good sense to solve their problems. But imagine what chaos there would be if we lived in a society without laws! Like the law, censorship contributes to the common good.
Some people think that it is disgraceful that a censor should interfere with work of art. Who is this person, they say, to ban this great book or cut that great film? No one can set himself up as a superior being. But we must remember two things. Firstly, where genuine works of art are concerned, modern censors are extremely liberal in their views – often far more liberal than a large section of the public. Artistic merit is something which censors clearly recognise. And secondly, we must bear in mind that the great proportion of books, plays and films which come before the censor are very far from being “works of art”.
When discussing censorship, therefore, we should not confine our attention to great masterpieces, but should consider the vast numbers of publications and films which make up the bulk of the entertainment industry. When censorship laws are relaxed, unscrupulous people are given a licence to produce virtually anything in the name of “art”. There is an increasing tendency to equate “artistic” with “pornographic”. The vast market for pornography would rapidly be exploited. One of the great things that censorship does is to prevent certain people from making fat profits by corrupting the minds of others. To argue in favour of absolute freedom is to argue in favour of anarchy. Society would really be the poorer if it deprived itself of the wise counsel and the restraining influence which a censor provides.
People watching TV are viewers. Viewers who watch a lot of television without caring what they watch are couch potatoes.
If you zap between channels, you use your remote control or zapper to change channels a lot, perhaps looking for something interesting to watch, and perhaps not succeeding. A zapper is also a person who zaps.
Informal words for television are the tube in the US, and the box or the telly in Britain.
Sorting out the channels.Two articles about zapping, one from the Times and one from Today, have been mixed up. There are six sections in the first article and five in the second.
1. Say which headlines and sections make up each article. (a. is the first section of the first article and b. is the first section of the second.)
2. Find all the expressions in both articles that mean “change channels”.
Going for the Big Break / Shouting at the Box
a. Pity the poor television advertiser. He fights for our attention, but it is an unequal fight. We turn on our TV sets to watch programmes; he would rather we watched his adverts. And these days the advertiser has something else to contend with: the zapper, the remote control. The moment a programme is finished or even half-way finished the selfish viewer turns the telly off, or over.
b. Remember the time when there was no such thing as a remote control for the telly and you had to haul yourself out of the armchair to change channels? Now everything is about to change again with a new voice-activated method.
c. The idea is that instead of pressing buttons, we will be able to channel-hop simply by shouting commands at the set, which will react using “voice recognition”. “Channel One, you ‘orrible little telly”, gets you BBC1, and so on.
d. This is the problem tackled by the Zapper and the Advertiser, a new study from the Billett Consultancy. The consultancy looked at 1,000 households. You could have worked out most of the findings yourself, but there are a couple of surprises.
e. The first is that quality is appreciated. Billet found that more people are likely to get bored with a one-hour LA Law than a one-hour Maigret. Eight per cent of live football watchers flip over during half-time, never to return. People change over half as often during weekends.
f. Perhaps now is the time to remove programme credits, Billett say, their logic being that most people switch off when the credits come on, anyway.
g. This is a bit like a biscuit manufacturer announcing that it will no longer make the first and last biscuits in a pack because they always get broken. Billett believes that ITV could increase the number of viewers aged 16 to 24 if it stopped end-credits and end-break advertising.
h. Can you imagine the chaos throughout the living rooms of Britain if this thing catches on?
i. “We also wonder whether a sensible change would be to increase the advertising minutage for centre-breaks during peak hours and a reduction in end-break minutage.” So, this could be the future: a brief pause for breath between programmes, but a massive slice of advertising during them. The advertisers will get you yet.
j. At least with the zapper there is only one person in charge of the set at a time. As far as I can make out, using this technique, …whoever shouts the quickest wins. There’ll be my husband bellowing “three, three, three,” for the news the kids screaming “six, six, six” for Sky, and me shouting at it to switch itself off.
k. At which point the set will probably have a breakdown. Life was so much simpler when the set stayed on the same channel for three days because no one could be bothered to get up and change it.