There is a dire need of a Content Code in the country but who will implement this?
Once again the I&B Ministry is crying for regulation of content in the television broadcasting. It all started with a man committing suicide after being humiliated by the host of controversial reality TV show Rakhi Ka Insaaf and numerous complaints against Bigg Boss-Season 4 where the participants have been accused of using indecent language and gestures and also one of the participant has been shouting and quarreling with other participants. The Ministry had clamped down on the channels and told them to telecast these shows between 11 pm and 5 am “with immediate effect”, the timing meant for broadcasting adult content.
The explanation given by the ministry is that the action had been taken as these shows were against good taste and decency and have objectionable content, which was not suitable for children and unrestricted public exhibition. However in blatant violation of the Ministry's order, Colors channel continued to broadcast Bigg Boss show on prime time, at 9 pm.
In orders sent to Imagine, which telecast Rakhi Ka Insaaf and Colors channel the Ministry hasd asked them to ensure that these programmes were not transmitted/re-transmitted between 5 am and 11 pm. The channels have been barred from sharing any clippings of these shows to other news/non-news channels for telecast at any time during the restricted time zone (5 am to 11 pm). The channels have also been asked to modify the content in accordance with the programme code and run a scroll on the television screen that the shows are not suitable for children.
Surprisingly, the Ministry order came just a day before the Hollywood Bombshell Pamela Anderson was to join the show. The anti publicity of the show after the government order infact increased the curiosity of the viewers so much that entry of Pamela Anderson in a saari in the Bigg Bose House raised the TRP of the show highest ever notwithstanding the fact that the actress is 43 and not that charming and sexy as she was in the famous American series 'Bay Watch” in which she was always seen in red swimsuit with her 42 inch bust line bubbling out. Some time one wonders if the whole sequence was stage managed to raise the TRP of the show.
In another incident the Ministry had also banned a Telugu channel, SS Music, for a week for showing “obscene and vulgar visuals that denigrate women” in its programmes Sizzling Hits, telecast on March 25 and April 10. Here again the Channel went to the Court and stayed the Ministry Order and continued with the show.
All this makes one wonder if the Ministry is really serious to rein in the TV channels or is it just an eye wash to satisfy some questions from the Opposition in the Parliament or to suppress the noise that some of the women organizations like the NCW make the issue public. Why I say this is because it is not the first time that such warnings are given and channels asked to shut down. And it has not made any difference to the programming content of these channels. In fact the content of some of the channels like MTV, Channel V and others have become more bold in their visuals as well as language.
The decision taken by the Ministry is generally following recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee having representatives from the Ministries of Information & Broadcasting, Women & Child Development, Home and External Affairs after they receive some complaints of violation of the programme and advertising codes.
“The IMC, after previewing clippings of Rakhi Ka Insaaf, observed that the language, demeanour and conduct of the anchor is objectionable as Rakhi uses abusive and vulgar language on the programme. Anchor poses questions to participants relating to their personal lives, who often reveal intimate details of their relationships, resulting in great embarrassment to the viewers,” the order stated.
Similarly, housemates on the Bigg Boss-Season 4 show often quarrel and use abusive language, the IMC pointed out, saying said that these shows were not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition, especially at prime time when a large number of children watch television.
But the big question is 'Does it make any effect?' Indian private broadcasting is 20 years old and we have more than 500 TV channels registered with the government today. There are 140 million TV of these households in the country and 105 million are served by cable and DTH which carry the private channels. About 55% of these households are in the rural areas where the western culture seen on the television may not be easily accepted. It is this segment of viewers that get adversely affected by such content but the TRP system does not monitor this. 7000 odd people-meter monitoring the channel viewership are installed only in the cities and that too mostly in the metros.
Every time the government shows its intention of regulating the content, the broadcasters lobby comes heavy on it and stall the issue saying that it will self regulate itself. It happened many times earlier and even now the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) assured to come out with the self-regulation guidelines and complaint redressal mechanism within three days. But nothing has happened so far.
Even if some self regulatory guidelines are prepared, who will abide by them. Only a few big broadcasting corporate are member of the IBF. It is the same people who also control the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). To make their lobby stronger they have created another body by the name of News Broadcasting Editors Association. The best thing is that the government has also made a committee for content regulation comprising of these three associations. Earlier, whenever any regulations were to be discussed, all stake holders including the consumer organizations and cable television operators were involved. Government now has made the job of broadcasters easy in violating the content norms.
Remember when the News Broadcasters Association framed their Self Regulatory code in 2008 and a complaint redressal body headed by Justice J S Verma former Chief Justice of India, the very first complaint fell flat after the accused channel refused to accept the verdict of a fine and went to the court against the order. Can we expect any thing better now?
Even if the IBF submits another programming code after getting it ratified by its Board, the Government too will have to notify and qualify adult content as currently the Cable Act has no such provision of what can be shown between 11 pm-5 am.
Also which content code will form the backbone of IBFs code? Currently, there is a code under the Cable Act, a draft code on I&B Ministry 's website and one prepared by IBF last year. NBA's guidelines also refer to some content guidelines as far as the news broadcasting is concerned. How long will the government make the viewers suffer delaying a controlling hand on the broadcasters?