"Regulations that 'drive certain ideas or viewpoints from the marketplace' for the benefit of children risk destroying the very political system and cultural life' that they will inherit when they come of age." United States District Court, in ACLU v. Reno, June 11, 1996.
Censorship in television is a very debatable topic in today’s media and social realms. Nowadays what is considered appropriate by many may actually be considered explicit or unsuitable by the people in charge. Given the current concerns with television content and media scenario, many argue that Censorship may be the only way out to harness this medium. I strongly believe otherwise. Censorship attempts by the government (CBFC) in films till date is a good example of this futile exercise. But even more important to remember is that Censorship of television and radio not only defies the constitution, but also defies fairness and defies the proper role that a government should have.
The basic underlining principle of this code is that the responsibility of complying with the provisions of this code vests with the Broadcasters. This is also the main differentiator from the old style statutory censorship or control content exercised by government bodies.
One of the big ideas in the new Broadcasting Bill 2006 is that broadcasters and others in the communications world should, wherever possible, police themselves rather than allowing a government-appointed body like BRAI to do it for them. They call this self-regulation, and one of the duties given to Broadcast Code developers at the very start is to "promote and facilitate the development of effective forms of self-regulation”. Getting the broadcasting industry and stakeholders to draw up its own codes of practice, enforce them and handle complaints from consumers if the codes are broken is seen as more flexible than old-style statutory regulation or censorship. The big daddy (government appointed BRAI) will ofcourse have the last say in penalizing and enforcing the Code. (should we not then call it “co-regulation” instead of ‘self regulation’ ?)
It has been a brave and appreciated gesture on part of the government (I & B Ministry) to come up with this idea of a Content Code based on the principle of self regulation. The Code development process involves most stakeholders and participants in this industry, government and civil society. The idea of Code is not new but mechanisms to monitor and implementation are certainly new, to our till date, unconcerned Broadcasters. Based on acceptable contemporary community standards and to protect the vulnerable sections from harmful and undesirable content on TV, such a Code is a welcome gesture. This code has been drafted to introduce greater specificity and detail with a view to facilitate self regulation by the broadcasting industry and minimize scope for subjective description by regulatory authorities / government. The basic underlining principle of this code is that the responsibility of complying with the provisions of this code vests with the Broadcasters. This is also the main differentiator from the old style statutory censorship or control content exercised by government bodies.
As per the Code, Programmes will be scheduled with an awareness of the likely audience in mind. Each Broadcaster is expected to categorize their program based on its theme, language and audio visual presentation and slot it accordingly. Therefore, following the watershed model, programs suitable to children (categorized as U) are to be scheduled from morning five to evening seven. From seven to eleven in the evening, UA category or under programs to be viewed under parental guidance are allowed and from 11 in the nite adult programming can be scheduled. But even in adult programming there are certain restrictions (Category R) which cannot be shown on Television (like pornography; promote, justify or encourage use Drugs, smoking, tobacco, solvents & alcohol; exploit the national emblem, etc).
This way television content will not be censored and Broadcasters will be obligated to disclose the nature of each program's content. Through widespread use of ratings and appropriate scheduling, people may protect themselves and their families from viewing offensive programming without infringing on the viewing options of others. Broadcasters that misrepresent their programming's content would be fined. With a system like this, there is absolutely no legitimate reason for any sort of censorship on television.
I am specially happy with this watershed model since it gives minors protection from material that may harm or disturb them (CMS studies show that more than 70% children watch program not meant for them) while providing an opportunity to Adults to be able to see and hear what they want. Additionally, the Code needs to protect viewers from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive and have a redressal system to take into account community concerns about depictions that incite or condone violence, or that portray people in a demeaning manner.
I am also hopeful that this Code will also enable Parents, Teachers and also general community to be more cautious, vigilant and discerning in their viewing preferences. Because, after all the Viewer is the ultimate regulator !