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Censorship Bureau

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A self-governing body with a censorship code, most visible (and most likely to receive mention) when that code is so draconian and unreasonable in its restrictions that it cripples an entire artistic medium. It usually comes about due to the pleas of the Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs, but sometimes, it will come about due to some other circumstances (e.g. the beliefs of a specific corporation). Some of these were created in fear of an even more draconian code being forced on the medium from outside. These are usually the organisations responsible for defining and enforcing Media Classifications.

This article from The Other Wiki lists government media rating organizations from around the world.

Compare & contrast with the Propaganda Machine. See also Animation Age Ghetto for a similar phenomenon.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Tokyo city government passed the Youth Ordinance Bill as an attempt to stop children from buying porn (or at least what the government thinks is porn). It does so by identifying "sexually deviant" anime and manga and cutting their publishers off from other organizations' financial backing. Pornograhpic works since then will use tiny Censor Boxes over the naughty bits, but not monster parts; this is the phenomenon that led to the trope All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles.
  • Voltes V was banned in the Philippines for its portrayal of a rebellion against a dictator. This completely backfired, as the Super Robot show was taken up as a symbol of the real ongoing revolution against the ruling dictatorship in the Philippines.

  • The Comics Code, as outlined in its own article, was a very restrictive censorship bureau enacted in response to a moral panic about violent or suggestive comic books. It greatly reduced the range of possible plots in an effort to avoid Evil Is Cool, but this meant the typical plot was something like "dinosaurs in World War II" or "Jimmy Olsen switching brains with a gorilla" (which happened twice). Stan Lee would help to put the Comics Code out of commission by simply ignoring them (Marvel was requested by the Department of Health to do a story about drug abuse; the CCA refused to allow it, but Marvel published the comic anyway without their seal), and inspiring other comic artists to follow suit.
  • In France, the law about publications intended for youth was really strictly enforced from the 50s to the 80s. It was so strict about violence that guns would be replaced with pointed fingers, and it was so strict about sex that many comics avoided showing romance outright — or even female characters at all, leading to a lot of Chaste Heroes (and Heterosexual Life Partners). Most strangely, the law was often used to target foreign comics, which would be banned under any pretense. They even did this to Belgian comics (which are so similar to French ones that many Europeans couldn't tell the difference). Magazines like Spirou would inaugurate new series whose main purpose was to enhance their image to the censors.
  • After World War II it was prohibited in Finland to do anything that could be seen as "damaging the relationship between Finland and Soviet Union". This led to self-censorship where people who translated foreign comics often changed the words so that they could not be seen as anti-communist. One example included changing "These watches from workers' paradise are worthless" to "These McDuck watches are worthless". In another one phrase "Viva la Revolution!" became "Turn off the lights!"

    Live Action — Films 
  • The "Hays Office" was a censorship bureau for American films during The Golden Age of Hollywood. It was established in 1922 as the movie industry's answer to state censorship initiatives, but The Hays Code wasn't much enforced until 1933. The office would not be dissolved until 1968.
  • The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) must offer a rating to any film or DVD before it can be legally sold in the U.K. Refusing to rate a work is to effectively ban it, as it did with the "Video Nasties". After a controversial "ban" on the video game Manhunt 2 in 2007, the BBFC has softened its stance a bit, only outright banning works that contain over-sexualized rape and torture. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) still had to be cut by over two and a half minutes to see a British release.
  • Gos Kino censored many Soviet films, such as those of Andrei Konchalovsky and Andrei Tarkovsky.
  • In-universe example in The Life of Émile Zola, when Zola's muckraking novels get him in trouble with French government censors.

    Live Action — TV Series 
  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the American government entity which effectively owns the TV and radio airwaves, and as such, it has a lot of say in what can be shown there. Although it can't file criminal charges, it can levy very large fines. It doesn't even publish a list of its standards—in this department, it makes its decisions on the basis of precedent through a quasi-judicial processnote —so a lot of works rely on guesswork. One of its most famous punishments was a $325,000 fine for Janet Jackson flashing the audience at the 2004 Super Bowl; but the record is $1.2 million, for a FOX reality show called Married by America in which someone licked whipped cream off a woman's censored nipples.
  • The Office of Communications (Ofcom) plays a similar role in the UK, although it acts more as a consumer protection entity as well, addressing things like lying to viewers and showing porn to people who don't want it.

  • Walmart refuses to stock CDs with a Parental Advisory label (despite selling M-rated video games and R-rated movies). Since Walmart is the world's largest retailer, this causes many artists to make clean versions of their music, even if they wouldn't do so otherwise.
  • In Spain, The Franco Regime went to great lengths to censor overly sexual scenarios and imagery. When The Who released Quadrophenia in the country in 1973, the censor removed liner notes for objectionable lyrics, deleted "Doctor Jimmy", and painted a Black Bra and Panties over the naked women on the posters in Jimmy's room — by hand.
  • Due to South Korea's strict censorship laws, Korean TV networks (especially KBS who's notorious for putting a ban on anything) go to extreme levels regarding what's allowed on music programsnote  and what isn't. Plenty of songs and videos were initially banned by TV networks for various reasons such as lyrics including Japanese words, videos showing the destruction of public property, or containing "homosexual imagery]]". Most entertainment companies alter their artists' videos and re-release them to lift the ban, though some agencies refuse to change their content in any way.
    • BTS are the biggest victims of this as many of their songs, such as "Dope" and "Boyz With Fun", the latter got banned for including a Chinese phrase note  that resembles a Korean swear word, and the former for apparently having vulgar lyrics note , among other reasons.
    • Female artists have to deal with lots of censorship whenever they go for a sexy concept. Many of their dance moves and lyrics get banned from TV broadcasts for being provocative.
    • Similarly, "How Dare You" by Sistar was banned not only for featuring a pole dance but also for including "belittling" lyrics like "why you play these games?".

  • Apple's iOS App Store has attracted controversy for censoring certain apps, including those from fashion magazines (an editor of one such magazine once referred to their iOS app as their "Iran edition"), papers with Page Three Stunnas, and those with politically controversial material, such as one that sent alerts about US Government issued drone strikes.

    Video Games 
  • Starting in 1986, Nintendo of America leaned on third-party publishers to remove all references to religion, drugs, alcohol, and adult situations from their games. They enforced this with the "Nintendo Seal of Quality" — although it was created to avoid Shovelware on their system, they could withhold it from any game that didn't meet their moral standards as well. Without the seal, developers wouldn't have access to the patented game cartridges for the system. This was largely in response to very powerful Moral Guardians in The '80s and the emergence of the trope Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000 — after that, the ESRB was established to rate video games. Sega wouldn't let Nintendo forget, though, and its marketing slapped a "kiddie" label on Nintendo that the company still can't shake, even after the Nintendo Switch became the console that more sexually explicit Japanese games were released uncensored on.
  • Although not as strict as Nintendo, Sega during the same era would self-censor as well (although they would often have to re-release cleaned-up versions of some games after complaints from Moral Guardians). They instituted an MPAA-style rating system on many of their games before the ESRB was formed. But they wouldn't impose too many restrictions on third-party games, some of which had plenty of gore and nudity.
  • In 2013, Capcom created its own Tournament series called Capcom Pro Tour which acts a de-facto tournament "league" for Capcom titles—in particular, Street Fighter. When Street Fighter V was released, a lot of Downloadable Content followed which increased the sexiness of its characters (usually the female ones), with outfits so Stripperiffic that some of them barely cover anything. When some tournaments started being broadcast on wider networks like ESPN, Capcom started instituting mandatory bans on all of the sexier costumes. This is a move that has pleased very few fans, with ones who like the Fanservice shouting that it's censorship, and the ones who don't saying that Capcom is basically admitting that the costumes look ridiculous.
  • Towards the end of The New '10s, Sony Interactive Entertainment has started imposing a vague set of restrictions on sexual content in games released on PlayStation consoles. The most obvious games affected by this were explicit Visual Novels, a number of which were ironically released on Nintendo Switch uncut, while the PS4 version had its content Bowdlerized. Meanwhile, the most visible game altered has been Devil May Cry 5, which has the nudity of one of its bosses censored in the PS4 version but untouched on other platforms it came out on.

  • England had a Censorship Bureau of sorts for theatre which lasted from the Elizabethan era until the late twentieth century. This duty was held by the Lord Chamberlain's office; while the title and office still exist, it hasn't been responsible for censorship since 1968. (The Lord Chamberlain today is in charge of coordinating the Royal Household and communicating between the House of Lords and the Sovereign; he and his office are basically the Queen's event planners). Creators worked to find a number of ways around the censorship:
    • It's commonly believed that operettas and musical theatre came about, at least in part, because of these restrictions; musical performances didn't fall under the Censorship Bureau's jurisdiction.
    • Some performance venues were declared members-only clubs, which protected them from government oversight. Prospective viewers would pay a nominal membership fee (often included in the price of a ticket) for the right to watch. This allowed more edgy plays like Look Back in Anger to be shown despite the inability to stage them publicly. (It was also a boon for proprietors of strip clubs and the like.)
    • During Elizabeth I's reign, all plays licensed for public performance in England had to be approved by Edmund Tilney, Master of the Revels. As William Shakespeare found out, he wasn't as strict about sex and violence so much as political controversy, which is why Shakespeare's plays tend to be filled with raunch, innuendo, and bloodshed, but rebels against the established order only succeed when the powers that be are presented as usurpers or morally corrupt.

  • Most governments have Censorship Bureaus of some sort. Dictatorships as well as other authority-centered governments, though, tend to be more concerned with politics than sex and violence. This can lead to some interesting situations.
  • Most Roman emperors would censor things strictly. The dictator who made the emperors possible, however, Julius Caesar, was an exception; he considered his arch-enemy Marcus Porcius Cato something of a Worthy Opponent and refused to censor his literature, even when it was outright critical of him. His successor to power as the first emperor, Augustus, was publicly lenient and encouraged debate within certain boundaries; his power and popularity were so great, and his reign so long and successful, that few publicly spoke against him. It was only under Augustus's heir, Tiberius, and Caligula who came after him, that the treason trials for defaming the state and the emperor through radical speech began in earnest.
  • The Catholic Church used to have several organisms tasked with preventing the publication of material hostile to its beliefs.
    • The most famous one, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, maintained by several Roman Curia offices, was a list of various books and authors deemed to be subversive to the Catholic faith. Some of the most notorious authors include Montaigne, Rousseau, Voltaire, Descartes, Kant and Copernic. Some translations of the Bible have been included. Created after the Council of Trent, it was discontinued on 1961, though Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it still "retains its moral force", indicating reading books on the list is still discouraged, if not forbidden.
    • Even today, Catholic writers wishing to write about religious matters (of course, non-Catholics would not submit themselves to a Catholic ordinary) have to ask for a nihil obstat to the local ordinary, to attest nothing against Catholic faith and teaching is contained.