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Rod Serling on Censorship

Video Credit: Rod Serling      Sent in by: jf

Many people will recognize Rod Serling from the Twilight Zone, a popular fiction series he created in part to allow for artistic expression. In some aspects it appears that what happened in the early days of television is happening to the Internet in general and YouTube, as the largest video host, in particular. As sponsors got more involved in television, commercial considerations became the dominant consideration, leading to the sponsor censorship and pre-censorship by writers.

Each sponsor will have a different trigger point or sensitivity and individually they can be somewhat reasonably managed. As a group these sensitivities become suffocating . If sponsors as a group are allowed control over the content on the Internet, artists and writters will find another medium, and we will be left with nothing but bland sterilized content. This, many suggest is part of the reason viewers left television and migrated to the Internet. It was new exciting and different.

Speaking of over-the-top sponsor censorship, Rod Serling gives an example on a gas stove manufacturer taking exception to the word gas being used in a negative context. Not wanting to mention the word gas when talking about gas chambers because you are selling gas stoves is over-the-top. No one with a glimmer of intelligence would confuse cyanide gas with propane or natural gas. Of course sponsors get some say so because they're sponsoring the show, but they should not have artistic say-so. That was what Rod Serling was fighting against.

As for the letter writing campaign over Lassie's having pups, most people will probably agree that was ridiculous. A set of basic standards is reasonable and that is the purpose of the FCC. It's reasonable for shows to be held to community standards, it's not reasonable for shows to be held to individual standards.