Thursday, January 22, 2009

Political censorship, deception and other rubbish

Stilgherrian has been given another run in Crikey today - this time outside the paywall.

I will offer the comment here I've offered to Crikey.

I really wish I hadn't clicked through to the images Stigherrian pointed to in his post, but I wanted to assess for myself what they contained. At core in his item Stilgherrian is making two claims. Firstly that the Internet is being treated differently as these images would be allowed on the TV news. Secondly that because these images appear on a political site, blocking them amounts to "political censorship".
The Television Code of Practice regulates content on television. The code applies the OFLC classifications to films, and their own classification scheme to programs, but not to news. The rules for news (etc) that these programs do not require classification, provided that the licensee exercises care in selecting material for broadcast having regard to: the likely audience of the program; and any identifiable public interest reason for presenting the program material.

It goes on
Material which cannot appropriately be classified AV or any lower television classification, because of the matter it contains, or the way that matter is treated, is unsuitable for television and must not be broadcast. In accordance with the Broadcasting Services Act, television licensees may not broadcast a program that has been classified "refused classification" (RC), or has been classified as X, under the Office of Film and Literature Classification Guidelines.

Now we all know the problem with the existing blacklist is that it is of RC, R18+ and X18+ material. I am happy to accept that the images displayed would fall into the R18+ or X18+ category. I sincerely doubt that any television network would think that those images met the standardsin the Television Code of Practice (did Crikey think to ask any?).

But it continues to be a mere assertion that the step after the technical trial will be the mandatory filtering of anything beyond RC. It is worth noting that Senator Minchin in all his professed concern has never bothered to defend the lumping together of RC, R18+ and X18+ i the Broadcasting Services Act in this way. Maybe Stigherrian might like to sharpen his campaign from being "no blacklist" to "blacklist only the RC list" (I'd join that campaign by the way).

But Stilgherrian's biggest claim is that the blacklisting of this site is political censorship. I don't know why he doesn't just resort to an unrestricted artistic defence of every image. Political censorship would only be occurring if the site were banned for the views it expressed. That isn't the case. It was de riggeur in the late 60's to claim (the Maoist claim) that all acts are political, that isn't the case here. The anti-abortion case isn't being stopped because of the message, just as it wouldn't be political censorship if an anti-censorship site were blocked because it chose to display censored information.

1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting comment you make...

    "I really wish I hadn't clicked through to the images Stigherrian pointed to in his post, but I wanted to assess for myself what they contained."

    In some States such as Western Australia you could well have contravened an Act of Parliament and as such be subject to potential criminal prosecution.

    Under the Western Australia Censorship Act it is (a) illegal to possess such material.

    62. Possession or copying of RC publications
    A person must not possess or copy a publication classified RC. Penalty: $10 000.

    It is also (b) illegal to obtain an article knowing it to be to be objectionabel material.

    It may be argued that the item under consideration may depict a bona fide medical article under section 101 of the Western Australian Censorship Act which contains harsh penalties if you "obtain possession of an article knowing it to be objectionable material;"

    101. Objectionable material: offences

    (1) A person must not use a computer service to —

    (a) transmit an article knowing it to be objectionable material;

    (b) obtain possession of an article knowing it to be objectionable material;

    (c) demonstrate an article knowing it to be objectionable material;

    (d) advertise that objectionable material is available for transmission; or

    (e) request the transmission of objectionable material knowing it to be objectionable material.

    Penalty: $15 000 or imprisonment for 18 months


    You may wish to explain (possibly to a magistrate) why you sought to obtain material deemed prohibited content or potential prohibited content.

    In Western Australia if found guily you could be fined $15,000 or be sent to prison for 18 months.

    As I see it your defence may be found under the following section..

    (2) It is a defence to a charge of an offence against this section to prove that the article concerned is —

    (a) an article of recognized literary, artistic or scientific merit;


    (b) a bona fide medical article

    If it is indeed a bona fida medical article then perhaps it shouldn't have been deemed prohibited content or potential prohibited content by the Australian Communication and Media Authority.

    I'll assume you don't reside in Western Australia for if you do you could be in deep deep trouble.

    It isn't for you to assess if an article is offensive or prohibited. You are NOT entitled to challenge the rulings of the censors to determine whether an item is acceptable or not.