Monday, 21 September 2009

Content Matters… a Nostalgia

Roop Sharma brings to the readers how the urgently required content code bill lies pending in the government files. With deteriorating content of the entire gamut of TV programmes, why the government is oblivious of the Indian sensibilities? 
Whenever a serial or a reality show breaks the morality norm, the country and the Gover-nment jump to action. Show cause notices to the channels and apology scrolls run by them seem a mere eyewash. 'Sach ka Saamna', is not the first show that has generated controversy and invited public wrath. I can't even imagine a single day when parents and kids watch a TV show together. Not only shows but the advertisements are also insensitive and sensationalizing. The decency is completely missing today. 

The need to have a content code continues since seventeen long years. 
India witnessed the advent of satellite channels in the early 90's and since then the Indian sensibilities have been adversely affected. It began with serials like 'Bold and the Beautiful' and 'Santa Barbara' that best suited our western counterparts but, not the Indian culture. People protested and the ire was faced by the poor un-heard cable operators. 
The cable operators had to strictly follow the programme code and the advertisement code (Cable Television Networks Regulations Act 1995). Whereas, the broadcasters were left un-touched, as the government had no control over them. The Act still in force makes the cable operators walk on a Razor's edge. How 
Cable operators are held responsible for the violations by the Television channels and broadcasters run scot free. 
 • The direct wrath of consumers is faced by the Cable operators\MSO's. The people in rural areas personally hold cable operators responsible if any objectionable scene or film is telecast. 
• Only News broadcasters (NBA) have made a complaint redressal authority in 2007. Complaints with this newly formed authority discourage the complainant, as he has to pay Rs 1,000. Also, there is no guarantee that the channel would abide by the verdict of the Authority. 
Since 2006, it is mandatory for all the channels to get registered with the I&B Ministry for downlinking in India. Keeping this in view the government also drafted a content code which is placed on the ministry's website. 
But, no heed was paid to this code. The Industry considered this code as draconian and a hindrance in their intellectual freedom and rather suggested self-regulation. News Broadcasters Association (NBA) was formed in Aug. 07. And they protested the content code and initiated their own self regulatory system. 
Need for the Content Code 
• Consumers are provided with a mechanism enabling them to voice their grievances and obtain redressal. 
• Broadcasters are compelled to care for public sensivity rather than just concerned with increased TRP. 
• Advertisements telecast should be Legal, decent, creating awareness, rather than sensationalizing. 
• Parents would be relieved as their kids can watch TV during the prescribed 'U' hours and make informed choices. 
 right to privacy is guarded and women and children are not just treated as commodities. 
• The sensitive issues of Crime, sex, violence, obscenity, horror, occult drugs, smoking, alcohol and politically motivated programmes are dealt properly without further aggravating the issue. 
'When it is everybody's responsi-bility, it is nobody's responsibility'. This quote brings to light the failure of the much talked of 'Self Regulation'. There have been numerous instances when no self restraint was visible. For instance- Arushi double murder case, when media instead of reporting the incidence played the role of a detective. Arushi's morality was crushed by making her e-mails public. The telecast of fake sting operations, like sting of the school teacher Uma Khurana. It plays havoc with the psyche of the children who cannot distinguish between original and the fake. 
The irresponsible reporting of the 26\11 Mumbai attacks is a recent example where channels go over-board and lose their objectivity in order to create sensation. 
The media actually jeopardized the lives of many hostages as the terrorists were watching the news sitting in the hotel rooms. Many popular and so called responsible news channels were there fighting for the TRP and breaking news. 
The molestation and rape cases are reported very in-sensitively. Though the identity of the victim is not disclosed, but through out the day a cheap drama is created of the event. The headlines create enough terror amongst the viewers. On some instances even the faith on judiciary is shaken. The list is endless. 
Self Regulation won't work because, 
• Umpteen number of channels National, International, Regional News, local video channels. Some channels belong to the political parties and to monitor them all is difficult. With ever- increasing reach of cable TV these channels are reaching rural areas also. The question arises whether we are matured enough to handle this exposure. What about the un-educated or less educated masses. How will they differentiate between the normal and the sensational, good or bad. A long exposure to a sensational event makes it normal for the viewer. This is like changing the habits. 
• Many shows on lesser known channels cause damage as they go un noticed. Recently a reality show participant was rebuked so harshly by the judges that she suffered a nervous break-down. Through out the day images of the participant being chucked out of the show and later being rebuked were telecast by the channels. 
• Vested interests of the broadcasters Political\Business. All broadcasters are more concerned with the increased TRP, Hence, self regulation can't work voluntarily. Reality shows, serials, sensationalizing of the news all are for TRP gimmick. Most channels are pro political party. Politicians owned channels are more dangerous as they just brag about their leader and sometimes personal scores are settled through the channel. During elections the situation gets worse. The mud slinging on each other is visible to all. National interest is totally forgotten. 
• All broadcasters are not the members of the associations like IBF, NBA and IMG. So that hinders the centralized control by a self regulatory body. The differences exist between these associations as well. Only thirty four channels are the members of NBA and all these have different parameters of self-regulation, because they are run by rival broadcasting companies. That stops them from working in unison. 
• Some media houses are so powerful that they even influence the government's decisions. Big banners with their bigger journos have created a terror like work environment. Mostly media is used to take personal vendetta. In the name of awareness often people are misled. Talking of talk shows held by IBN7 and NDTV24x7 often sensitive and culturally damaging issues are glorified. For eg. Gay- lesbian issue or to legalise sex workers and to place it at par with other professions often offend the society norms and mislead the impressionable minds. 
• Advertisements are no less vulgar. Open display of love making for the condoms ad and Deodorants Ad are highly objectionable. Creativity at the cost of morality can never be acceptable. 
• Space constraint in Analog Cable and DTH Networks is an excuse for some broadcasters to use un-ethical means like telecasting sensational, indecent or titillating programmes or create a fake viewership as a business tactic to enjoy a better placement in the cable networks. 
• I might be considered an activist or backward but, some one has to voice the thought. Shutting up of news channels or going back to a by-gone era is not my suggestion. But, we do need an autonomous body to regulate the content. I personally feel that once the show or a news clipping is telecast the damage is already done. The content code should be kept in mind while making of a programme. We all must preserve our cultural heritage for the future generations. Presently we are mindlessly aping the west. Media Print\TV for one should act responsibly and try to create well informed opinion not just paparazzi.



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