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Video clip synopsis – John Safran discusses censorship in Australian media.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 0min 35sec
Tags - audiences, censorship, consumers, identity, media and society, media influence, technology and society, telecommunications, see all tags


Censorship in Media

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About the Video Clip


This interview with John Safran was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

John Safran is a Filmmaker and self-proclaimed media hooligan. You can view his full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus


In this English unit students will:

  • discuss concepts of censorship in Australia, and how it relates to their own lives
  • construct a display poster about wartime censorship
  • write a short story fictionalising wartime censorship
  • deliver a speech to a defined audience about an aspect of censorship.

Reading Standard: students read, view, analyse and discuss contemporary and discuss a wide range of informative and persuasive texts and identify the multiple purposes for which texts are created. They explain how texts are shaped by the time, place and cultural setting in which they are created.

Writing Standard: students write sustained and cohesive narratives that experiment with different techniques and show attention to chronology, characterisation, consistent point of view and development of a resolution. They write persuasive texts dealing with complex ideas and issues and control the linguistic structures and features that support the presentation of different perspectives on complex themes and issues. They proofread and edit their own writing for accuracy, consistency and clarity.

Speaking and Listening Standard: students compare ideas, build on others’ ideas, provide and justify other points of view, and reach conclusions that take account of aspects of an issue. They draw on a range of strategies to listen to and present spoken texts, complex issues or information imaginatively to interest an audience.

The activities in this unit are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strands of Level 6 Communications (Listening, Viewing and Responding standard; Presenting standard), and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, Processing and Inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 6 Interpersonal Development (Building Social Relationships standard; Working in Teams standard), and Personal Learning (The Individual Learner standard; Managing Personal Learning standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


At the start of World War II in 1939 Australians rushed to support Britain – the mother country – in her battle with Hitler’s Nazis. Then the Japanese bombed Darwin, killing hundreds, and the nation realised a greater enemy was battering at the door. Help came not from Britain but from a new friend, the United States. The 1940s shifted Australia’s sense of its place in the world.

Control & Censorship
The Government used its influence over radio, newsreel and the print media during World War II (1939-45), in an attempt to control the way in which the war was reported. Information was carefully used by the media as a tool for managing public opinion and boosting morale.

In some instances reports distorted the truth by, for example, minimising the number of casualties or the extent of damage. Sometimes significant current events were not reported at all, such as the death of approximately 243 Australians following the Japanese bombing of Darwin.

Much of the news and commentary was prepared or directly influenced by the Commonwealth Department of Information (DOI). The DOI used what people read in the newspapers, listened to via radio, and watched on newsreels at the cinema to ‘heighten the war effort’. (Inglis 79)

Sir Keith Murdoch, the Managing Director of the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd. (and father of Rupert Murdoch), was made Director-General of Information, with the power to control 'every avenue of publicity’.

Other official bodies who influenced what would be broadcast included the Army, the Navy and
the United States’ General Headquarters in Melbourne.

In addition, the Government keenly scrutinised the nation’s media proprietors, particularly those thought to be a threat to national security. In January 1941, “the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church was declared illegal because of its anti-war views”. (Darlington 362) Subsequently, the broadcast licences of four radio stations owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses were revoked by the Postmaster-General’s Department for fear they would obstruct the war effort. The stations were 2HD Newcastle, 5KA Adelaide, 5AU Port Augusta and 4AT Atherton. (NFSA)

Mentions of media censorship were suppressed, and the Government threatened penalties for breaches of censorship. Despite people’s recognition of the role of censorship during a time of national emergency, many, including those involved in producing broadcasts, criticised the Government’s censorship of the media as too extreme, and some even compared the suppression and interference to Dr Goebbels’ Department of Propaganda and Enlightenment in Nazi Germany.

Classroom Activities

  1. Getting started
    As a class, view the broadcaster interview with John Safran then discuss and write notes on the following:
    1. Define John Safran’s view of what he calls the ‘traditional’ meaning of censorship, and comment on whether he believes this form of censorship occurs in Australia or not.
    2. Comment on whether governmental controls over swearing, sexuality and violence in films and TV fiction programs serve a positive purpose within Australian society, or whether there should be no censorship and control over these at all.
    3. Comment on whether there are any newspaper photographs or TV news programs of real-life events that contain images you believe should never be published or screened. Are there any you have seen that ought to have been censored?
  2. Constructing a poster display about wartime censorship
    In pairs research either newspaper, newsreel or radio censorship in Australia during World War 2, then construct a large illustrated poster display about it. The class should make sure posters are produced dealing with all three areas of the mass media.
  3. Writing a short story about censorship
    From your research about wartime censorship, draft, edit, revise and proofread a short story of 500–700 words about any aspect of life in Australia during World War 2 where media censorship is an issue or a theme. (You may wish to discuss the plot, character and setting possibilities in class first.)
  4. Delivering a speech defending a computer game’s violence
    You belong to a team constructing a fight-scenario computer game that has been criticised for being excessively violent. Prepare a two-minute speech to the Office of Film and Literature Classification arguing why the game should not be censored. Present to your class.

Further Resources


Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

Parliament of Australia, Parliamentary Library, Censorship and Classification in Australia, Kim Jackson, Analysis and Policy, Social Policy Group.

Australian Broadcasting Authority, Broadcasting Services Act 1992, ABA 1992

Office of Film and Literature Classification

Trinity College, PL Duffy Resource Centre, Censorship: Ever Justified?

Peter Dunn’s Australia at War Censors in Australia during World War Two

Caslon Analytics profile, Aust and NZ censorship, October 2005