Many people may be against censorship, at least in theory. Today, however, corporate censorship is everywhere, and it effects everyone. The deliberate restriction of undesirable information is arguably a right of the corporation, at least in the framework of a modern capitalist society.
If a company’s reason-to-be is to make and increase profits, ideals such as freedom of expression and the free sharing of ideas, are by nature, a conflict with the aim of the business entity. Some ideas and some forms of expression will eventually conflict with the character, desires, and motives of the company. With the power to dictate the flow of information to some extent, why wouldn’t a business direct that content to suit its own needs? As corporations, particularly in America, have grown into massive conglomerates in many sectors, the effects of corporate censorship on society have expanded as well.
Corporate Censorship of Music
The corporate censorship of music is one that affects the majority of the population, although few people are aware of it. A small percentage of recordings are provided for the consumer in most stores, and on most radio stations. To find any music beyond what is conventionally provided, and marketed as popular, a consumer would have to visit independent music outlets, listen to independent radio stations, or learn about different artists from independent magazines, either online or in print. Larger corporations, whether a store such as Best Buy, or the media conglomerates which own most of commercial radio, only display and play the conventionally-agreed upon recordings.
What is the result of this form of censorship by corporations? Art becomes stifled. People do not have direct access to a range of inspiration, creativity, and expression. Some voices are never heard, while others are incessantly heard by everyone. This is a great power of a large company. To influence what is heard, and even what is created.
If Wal-Mart, which at one point was responsible for as much as ten percent of album sales, only puts conventional music on its shelves, the message is sent to artists, that unconventional music will not sell. An independent artist, creating music that is not mainstream, will face many challenges without the support of business conglomerates. The consumer, interested in discovering the voices of art, that are “behind the curtain” will also face many challenges.
Corporate Political Censorship
As companies continue to merge, forming larger unified business interests, political voices are quieted just as much as artistic voices. For example, in 2007, Senator Mike Gravel was not allowed in the televised political debates. He was forced to air a live web cast of his viewpoints for the public to hear, because the media outlet airing the debate — MSNBC — would not let him participate.
In a press release about the Senator’s webcast, it is mentioned that his supporters would be joining him to protest the war, and the corporate media censorship of his political views. MSNBC is owned by GE. Did Mike Gravel’s political opinions conflict with the interests of GE? What other political voices have been left out of the mainstream forum?
Another example of corporate political censorship involves another media conglomerate. In 2004, Disney Company, the owner of Miramax, told the film company that it could not distribute Michael Moore’s movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. In the May 5, 2004 New York Times article by Jim Rutenberg, “Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush,”
Michael Moore’s agent claimed that the CEO of Disney at the time, Michael Eisner, indicated that the content of the movie would conflict with tax incentives that Disney enjoyed. Disney officially denied this, but did say they did not want the company to be involved with the political message of the film.
Who is Against Censorship?
Despite the fact that many people would say they were against censorship, and in support of freedom of information, there is an inherent challenge for the public to be aware of censorship. How does one know what information they are missing, if it is missing? How does one know what art they are not being exposed to, if they are not exposed to it? How does one hear about political views, that are not heard?
If corporate censorship is dangerous or not is a matter of personal opinion. For people concerned with the intentional filtering of information, the solution is as simple as cultivating awareness. Seek knowledge, discover art, listen to alternative voices. There is the freedom to choose an independent source, rather than the source that is overshadowed by corporate interests. In our modern capitalist society, there may be many interests trying to cultivate public awareness as a means to financial gain, but accessing a wealth of art, inspiration, and information is possible.