Censorship of Movies and TV

April 12, 1961

Report Outline
Movie Tribulations in the Courts
Censorship: Official and Non-Official
Dilemma Posed by Conflicting Demands

Movie Tribulations in the Courts

In a decision important to all communications media, the Supreme Court on Jan. 23 sustained the authority of a Chicago police board to pass on the content of motion picture films before granting city licenses for their public showing. By thus sanctioning prior censorship, the Court seemed to be reversing a course of judicial action which during recent years had brought the authority of official censors within increasingly narrow bounds. Legal opinion differs on the degree to which the ruling in Times Film Corp. v. Chicago will strengthen the hand of the public censor, but the movie industry fears that one result will be a proliferation of censorship boards and a sharp increase in their activities. Other communications media fear that the high court may have set a precedent under which prior restraint could be extended to their respective fields.

The Times Film decision came at a time of mounting protest against excesses of sex, crime and violence not only in the movies, but also on the television screen and in other mass media. The rise of juvenile delinquency, and of sex offenses and criminality in general, has given new persuasiveness to demands of the reformer that a tighter rein be put on films, TV, stage shows, books and magazines.

Supreme Court Sanction of Prior Cemsorship

The facts in the Times Film case differed from those considered by the Supreme Court in earlier censorship cases. The question was not whether a particular item—in this case the Italian film Don Juan—should be banned, but whether an agency of government could require that all films be submitted and receive official approval in advance of public exhibition.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 16, 2004  Broadcast Indecency
Mar. 28, 2003  Movie Ratings
Nov. 17, 1995  Sex, Violence and the Media
Feb. 19, 1993  School Censorship
Dec. 20, 1991  The Obscenity Debate
Dec. 07, 1990  Does Cable TV Need More Regulation?
May 16, 1986  Pornography
Jan. 04, 1985  The Modern First Amendment
Oct. 19, 1979  Pornography Business Upsurge
Mar. 09, 1979  Broadcasting's Deregulated Future
Mar. 21, 1973  Pornography Control
May 17, 1972  Violence in the Media
Jan. 21, 1970  First Amendment and Mass Media
Jul. 05, 1967  Prosecution and the Press
Jun. 28, 1961  Peacetime Censorship
Apr. 12, 1961  Censorship of Movies and TV
Dec. 23, 1959  Regulation of Television
Jul. 29, 1959  Control of Obscenity
Jul. 27, 1955  Bad Influences on Youth
Mar. 21, 1952  Policing the Comics
Apr. 12, 1950  Censorship of Motion Pictures
Sep. 20, 1939  Censorship of Press and Radio
Freedom of Information
Freedom of Speech and Press
Regulation and Legal Issues