Censorship is never good

If you don’t follow free-to-air TV in Australia (which, if you’re not from there, makes complete sense – I don’t follow the ins and outs of it, but since it has been all over the news, I’ve had some interest in it), you aren’t aware of the storm that is Underbelly. Meg wrote about 9’s changing of the show’s site to basically remove any mention of details of the show.

Why did they change the site?

A judge told them they had to block broadcast of the program into the whole of Victoria because it, apparently, it would influence potential jurors in a trial. Over here, we’d handle that by asking the pool if they had heard of the program and whether or not they had seen it on TV. Why this couldn’t be done in Australia is beyond me – it seems to be something very logical to do, instead of forcing a TV station to nix what turned out to be a very well-watched program, even outside of Victoria.

However, the ridiculousness of the situation doesn’t stop there – shortly after the show aired (as happens with almost every show aired in the US and probably in a lot of other countries as well), someone (or more likely, a group of people) uploaded the show to certain websites – which exact ones they were, I don’t know, but the main sites that I know of did not allow users to post information about the show. As RT from Untwisted Vortex pointed out in his articles – Downloaded Pirated Anything is not Illegal, and Followup to the Previous Article – the followup’s included so that the whole story is there – the only thing that can happen is a civil suit as that is all copyright infringement is (which is what happens when you redistribute a TV show, for instance, on the internet.

Now, of course, it’s in 9’s interest to keep the show out of the hands of Victorians (not so much because of the ban, but because of the lost advertising revenue, I’m guessing), but if you read one story on their own website, they claim that there is an organization who are wanting to bring legal charges against people uploading the show.

Because of one line in that story, some sites that I know of have actually quietly gone away for the time being – when the ruling was handed down, the decision was made that it would be somewhat hands-off, but the vagueness of that one line made the world all blurred, and generally made things not so good.

The attention that this show has garnered has caused the judge to revise the decision, after reports of one hotel showing the program off of a legal satellite stream, to block any exhibition of the program from or into Victoria. Even before the tightening of the decision, one national network, Nine Imparja, which broadcasts to a wide swath of the country, including the Northern Territory, South Australia, regional Queensland and most of the rest of the country via satellite, chose to not air the program, giving viewers the following advisory –

Meanwhile, viewers in Melbourne were graced with the presence of former 9 head, host of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?, president of the Collingwood Football Club, Eddie McGuire, with this announcement, which included the note that the program would be replaced by the Shawshank Redemption.

By the way, these, along with videos of news reports on the ban are the only videos you’ll find on YouTube about the show – they’re policing uploads of the show pretty closely apparently.

One last thing – to the judge in this case, and to the Department of Public Prosecutions – forcing a TV station to block broadcast of a program for such a weak reason as possibly influencing potential jurors is something you shouldn’t be encouraging. Especially if you believe in a free press. It’s not to say that we’re just as good; in fact, sometimes the TV stations here are too weak – they’ve been known to drop programs even before they air on the premise that they might get complaints about it.

Whatever happened to common sense?

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