Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Democratic Censorship

Last night (April 25), Serbian authorities forcibly closed BK Television. According to the ANEM (Independent Electronic Media Association), this was done on the orders of the Broadcast Council, following BK's criticism of the council's allocation of public frequencies.

There's so much wrong with this picture, it's hard to pick a place to start. First of all, the existence of the Broadcast Council, modeled after the FCC, is an abomination. How can any country have media that are free and independent of government pressure if a government regulatory agency can yank their license or levy fines on them if their content is deemed "inappropriate"? Long and short of it is - it can't.

Second, there's such a thing as due process - or at least there should be. The government should not have the power to simply send over the cops and shut down a TV station, or a newspaper - or anything, really - without properly filed warrants that could be contested in court. Something all too many people aren't aware of is that laws (starting from the Constitution onward) exist to protect them from the government, not the other way around.

This isn't about BKTV - I've hardly ever seen their programming, and its content is frankly irrelevant; if content were grounds for government censorship, B92 would have been eligible for shutdown ages ago (as if that will ever happen to the flagship of Imperial/Jacobin propaganda...). Making its protest a "Yes, but" criticism, ANEM says that the Broadcast Council "is faced with the difficult task of bringing order to the chaotic situation in the Serbian media sector and will have to make many difficult and unpopular decisions..." But what is so chaotic about the Serbian media sector that requires government "ordering," with police batons no less? How is that morally different from the Milosevic-era Media Law that was held up as the paragon of oppression?

I thank God and human ingenuity that with the advent of the Internet age, the whole mainstream-media model is becoming rapidly obsolete, and that soon enough people will be able to generate and distribute information and entertainment content directly to consumers, without government licensing, censorship or "ordering." Yes, this will require readers/viewers to actually think for themselves and decide whether their sources of information are credible or not. But considering how many people buy into outright lies at worst and negligent stupidity at best, only because it comes from the mainstream newspapers and TV, that can only be a good thing.

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