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Content code for broadcasters draft to be finalised on 21 June …

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on June 16, 2007

NEW DELHI: The content code for broadcasters drawn up by a Committee constituted by the information and broadcasting ministry appears to have run into problems, and it may be a long while before it can be notified or implemented.

Though senior ministry officials and the group which drafted the Code are meeting on 21 June to give a final shape to the provisions, there is wide division on the various provisions with broadcasters feeling this amounts to policing and infringement of their freedom and non-governmental and women’s organizations feeling it is too vague on some of its provisions.

After the final meeting of the Committee headed by I&B Secretary Asha Swarup on 1 June, it had been generally agreed that those members who wanted to give any further suggestions could do so by 15 June after which the final draft would be put up in the ministry website for people to send in their reactions.

I&B ministry sources today told that most of the suggestions had been received and were in the process of being incorporated in the draft. However in view of the sharp divisions, this would be followed up by some meetings with broadcasters who have expressed strong reservations, and also a seminar where eminent citizens and stakeholders would be asked to give their views.

Broadcasters are said to have objected to the procedure for redressal of complaints among other provisions. The Code as drawn up stipulates a three-step procedure for self-regulation and redressal of complaints alleging violation of the Programme or Advertising Codes.

The first forum to hear the complaints would be a Content Auditor at the level of the Programme/Service Providers. In case a complaint is not suitably redressed, then it will go to the next stage – respective Consumers’ Complaints Committees set up at the industry-segment level organizations. The third and final stage would be the Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India proposed in the comprehensive Broadcast Bill to be introduced in Parliament in the monsoon session.

Broadcasters have also expressed reservations about the provision in the draft Code that ‘the Chief Editor of the channel, by whatever designation he is known in the broadcast service producer, shall be responsible for the final decision to accept or modify the guidance given by the Content Auditor/s, and to schedule and broadcast the programme.’ They feel that whatever is broadcast should be seen as a corporate matter and not that relating to the Editor alone.

Akila Sivadas of the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR) is understood to have objected to the vague provisions with regard to portrayal of women, showing of violence, and the role of children in the serials and other programmes including news bulletins.

CFAR is understood to have given specific examples to show how guidelines given in the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 are being violated with regard to these subjects and has said the depiction of violence or the role of children should be clearly defined, citing cases of mental cruelty where children have been made to re-enact situations where they indulged in violence or were victims of it. Suggestions have also been given to incorporate provisions relating to clear definitions of what constituted coverage of crime, particularly relating to women and children, since television channels gave their own interpretations.

Subhashini Ali who is President of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, has objected to the derogatory depiction of women and suggested stricter provisions and guidelines not only for the TV medium, but also for cinema.

The meeting on 1 June had been presided over by Swarup and attended by around 15 members, who included P N Vasanti from the Centre for Media Studies who along with her colleague Prawin Kumar prepared the draft Code, Sivadas, Ali, Roop Sharma (President of the Cable Operators Federation of India) and S Sen of the Film and Television Producers Guild of India. Zohra Chatterjee who is joint secretary (Broadcasting) and additional secretary Pradeep Singh were also present, apart from representatives of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF).

Broadcasters also feel there is no reason for a separate ‘U/A’ (Under the Supervision of an Adult) category and this should be merged in the category ‘U’ (Universal) as far as certification of films was concerned.

The Code as drafted stipulates that films certified as ‘U’ or ‘S’ (Specialized) can be telecast at any time. Films certified as ‘U/A’ can be shown between 8 pm and 4 pm, while films for ‘A’ (adult) audiences should only be telecast between 11 pm to 4 am.

(16 June 2007 6:36 pm  – Sourc: Team )

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