Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I don't approve of using sex to sell things, mainly because it's the most unimaginative way to do so. But it does work; that's why "lifestyle magazines" are outdoing each other in hawking rauchy (and usually poorly written) pieces within their pages. That's still no reason for the Government to control what kids read, which is what the parents in this Today article really want when they demand a classification system.

People seem to confuse classification with control a lot, so they don't pick up doublethink like the MDA line that recent changes to the movie ratings system here has resulted in "greater choice". If there were no censorship at all, distributors and directors wouldn't have to balk at cuts to their films and not screen them here.

Control is the real issue. Classification is supposed to facilitate the control of distribution of a media, so it makes sense to ask how effective a classification system for magazines would be in determining whether kids can get their hands on them. A classification system for magazines will probably not be effective because:

1) Unlike film, magazines tend to have tight deadlines. There's a very short time between finalising content and going to print. A classification system will really screw up the operations of most magazines.

2) No-one will be able to agree on the criteria to use. These aren't blatant pornography like Hustler. How many risque articles is too many?

3) There are inherent difficulties in controlling magazine distribution anyway. Are policemen now supposed to make sure shopowners don't sell Cleo and FHM to 15-year olds? Will parents make their children rat on the aunty who sells newspapers outside the MRT station? How can you punish someone for buying a magazine?

Above all, children and teenagers already have enough spending power to buy their own magazines. Failing that, they borrow from friends (or even the library!). No to mention the torrents of exploitative material on the Internet. By the time the parents object, it's too late.

(See? And we didn't even have to bring liberalism into the counter-arguments this time.)

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