Saturday, 8 June 2013

Kids Channels heading for Censorship

No one till now thought of censoring the Kids channels. However with the competition growing in the genre a lot of foreign made content is being added on the kids channels that may not be following the content code of India and channels generally overlook such aspect because self regulation has not yet caught on in the country. Our government is too scared of the powerful broadcasters, particularly the foreign broadcasters, to regulate their content. The Broadcast Content Complaints Council (BCCC) has been constituted by IBF but it represents only a handful of influential broadcasters who may not take its advice so seriously. On 16 May BCCC issued advisory to all kid’s channels in the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) warning them to be more circumspect about the programming they air on their channels. The advisory states that the emphasis should be on the 'best interest of the child'. BCCC is also planning to send the advisory to the I&B Ministry so that the channels follow the advisory.
While sending out the warning BCCC chairperson justice AP Shah has stated that ”while the BCCC wishes to avoid being a censoring agency, it advises all IBF member channels, particularly children’s/cartoon channels, to be more cautious in the selection of the content shown, considering the impressionable minds of their target viewers. 
BCCC took the action after it received several complaints regarding the telecast of content on channels meant for children, including cartoon channels.

The complaints have broadly been about:
  • Telecast of “objectionable” content, visuals, theme, animation and/or use of “inappropriate” language in some programmes aired on children’s/cartoon channels. This includes foreign cartoon shows and their translated/adapted versions.
  • Telecast of films/movie clips classified as UA, including horror/action films, on children’s/cartoon channels.
  • Telecast of “objectionable” promos of programmes meant for more mature viewers on children’s/cartoon channels.
The BCCC has acknowledged that it has taken note “of the contention of some broadcasters that there is no separate classification of channels as those meant exclusively for children and, therefore, there can be no additional restraint on the telecast of content, even if it is meant largely for adult viewers.
The Council, however, is of the opinion that as a matter of fact, some channels consider children to be their principal target viewers. Consequently, it is children who overwhelmingly watch these channels and unsuspecting parents allow them easy access to programmes aired on such channels.”
The issue came to light after BCCC had received complaints that content inappropriate for young viewers like promos with kissing scenes, an incident where a cartoon character attempts suicide or another scene in which a character attempts to pull down a girl's skirt have been aired on many occasions.
In other complaints, viewers had expressed anguish at the telecast of promos of a reality show or other programmes meant for adult viewers on channels for children and young viewers. Although it is perceived that all cartoon channels are  meant for kids, many cartoon programmes are being made for teens and adults. Such programmes have also seeped in to the kids channels which needs to be checked. This brings us to another issue, ability of parents to monitor and control what the kids are watching. This generally can be done if the STB has a parental lock which permits to lock certain channels to block them for the kids. Unfortunately the 25 million STBs imported for the ongoing digitization have no check on their standards and such facilities may not be existing in these STBs to cut costs.
There is an urgent need in India to rate the TV content and display it on screen. This issue has been discussed for many years, also catered for in the draft Broadcast Bill but nothing exists in black and white. Since all TV channels are not members of IBF, we do need an autonomous body to look after such issues of content regulations.


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