Last week, the Egyptian Shoura Coucil (The Upper House of Parliament) demanded a review of the media code of ethics to examine the codes that control the content of the video clips shown on the specialized music satellite channels.
The question is: do we need to review the codes and articles to decide which videos, movies or even thoughts or ideologies we can ban or censor? I doubt it very much.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to implement censorship in a digital age characterized by a high-tech environment, new interactive television systems and new websites such as YouTube where one can record and upload his/her own material.
If the Shoura Council members are so disgruntled at the new music videos, they should start thinking, not about enforcement, but about regulation. It is impossible to put harsh censorship rules because there are different media outlets and millions of gateways through which viewers can gain access.
Any entity that feels responsible and accountable to the public, whether it’s the Shoura Council, the People’s Assembly or the Ministry of Information, must be concerned with the establishment of codes that act as guidelines to the provision of content in a practical way and at the same time, help foster the growth and the development of the television industry.
The purpose of setting any regulations is for economic and social gain. The rules must aim to create a market structure which promotes competition and pluralism accordingly, within a certain legal framework that preserves the media’s social independence and preserves the country’s traditions and sense of identity.
The issue of content codes or regulations must be categorized according to the kind of broadcaster whether public or private. Some singers go to music satellite channels because they are not controlled by the Egyptian government. These private channels whether or not they are specialized in music are a double-edged weapon because although they are a forum for more freedom of expression they are developed with little or no regulation over content or performance.
Moreover, satellite broadcasting is spreading very rapidly with no restrictions on acquiring the necessary transmission receivers.
Concerns about video clips should focus on regulating issues like indecent content and the offensive and morally improper behavior which includes nudity and sexually provocative behavior that violates all accepted social norms and adversely affects their main target audience: teenagers. Some of the video clips are outright disgusting and offensive to one’s notions of decency and modesty. It is essential to have a system of codes which is binding to all broadcasters while accommodating a few differences in public and private sectors. In Egypt, regulation is essential and it must be decided by an independent regulatory body because the monopoly of the Egyptian government over national channels homogenizes the tone.
Too much differentiation with no regulation in the products of the private market can get messy.
Rasha Allam is a professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo. She is specialized in media management.