By Dave Regan and James Hutchings
ARIA (the Australian Record Industry Association) has recently brought in new guidelines which restrict the sale of many CDs and completely ban others.
The guidelines are a harsher version of the system of "parental advisory" stickers. Instead of just telling people that a recording has certain things in it, they're refusing to sell to people under 18. There are some recordings that have been taken off the shelves altogether.
ARIA is such a power in the music industry that its "guidelines" are more like laws than suggestions. Most record shops have just gone along completely.
ARIA was pushed into this by the government. Censorship is seen as a vote winner. It seems to offer a quick and easy solution to complicated social problems like violence. People under 18 can't vote and tend not to be politically organised, so it's easy to censor things that they mostly use. Computer games are another recent example.
Music is an especially easy target for the censors. It's been the subject of moral panics since at least the 1920s. In the 1950s it was claimed that rock and roll was part of a communist conspiracy. The Russians claimed that it was part of a capitalist conspiracy. It sounds stupid, but it's no more stupid than saying that listening to metal will make you shoot yourself.
Censorship has a way of growing. These guidelines are supposed to protect children. They've already taken away adults' right to listen to some music. Similarly, even though they're mostly aimed at metal, hip hop, punk and hardcore, they'll affect other types of music if they aren't stopped. Everyone who listens to music or cares about free speech is affected.
ARIA is relying on people to keep to be "good consumers" — to buy from shops that censor CDs. One of the things you can do is buy from shops that support the campaign against censorship. If you're going to boycott a shop, it's even more effective if you tell them why. You can also ask your local record shop why they're not supporting the campaign. Most record shops are going to want to keep quiet and stay out of trouble — that's why you have to tell them that they've got trouble by supporting censorship.
If you want to do more about this, get in contact the Newtown Political Collective: c/- 583A King Street, Newtown NSW 2042.
The campaign is supported by: KRASS, Phantom, Red Eye, Silver Rocket, Soundgarden and Waterfront record shops; the Newtown Political Collective; Resistance; On the Street magazine; Green Left Weekly.