Govt says a firm no to adult content on TV

Written by Ashish Sinha | Mumbai | Updated: Feb 22 2011, 04:05am hrs
The government has said a firm no to the telecast of adult content on television during the watershed, which is the time when adult content can be beamed on TV sets. In India, the watershed is from 11 pm to 5 am. The proposal by the broadcasters stands spiked till the time the broadcasters show maturity, restraint and self-regulation for the existing content.

As first reported by FE in December, the broadcasters had proposed a classification-based content code for the entertainment and lifestyle genre under which television content meant for adults could be aired after 11 pm. The move was aimed to counter the frequent government crackdown on reality and fiction shows which have been airing mature content in general-viewing time bands, i.e. 7 pm to 11pm.

The broadcasters wanted the government nod to air adult content during the watershed hour when the shows were to carry an advisory A (for adults only) and a warning saying that the programme contains nudity, offensive language or violence, as the case may be. But this has not been accepted by the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry, sources told FE. The word contextually justified leaves a big room for interpretation of what is adult. We cannot simply endorse it and make the late-night hours a free-for-all time-band. Therefore, no adult content on television for now," a government official told FE.

The move will come as a setback to private channels who have been pushing adult-content via reality-show formats thereby testing the existing regulations which prohibit the telecast of adult content.

However, such shows attract higher eyeballs and therefore greater advertiser interest and this is the reason broadcasters have been indulging in airing such contents, sources said.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the apex body of leading broadcasters, had proposed a self-regulation mechanism and a new content code in November, 2010, as reported by FE then.

However, the I&B ministry has approved only the self-regulation mechanism so far, returning the proposed content code for major changes, sources said. This is because the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, prohibits telecast of nudity, sex, violence, offensive language and other adult content and the government will have to make suitable changes in the law if and when it allows it.

It has to be a step-by-step move. First broadcasters will have to put in place content auditors and a standard and practices (S&P) department in every channel to check the telecast of existing objectionable content at their end. Also, by mid-March, the IBF has to operationalise the Broadcast Content Complaint Council, a source in I&B ministry said.

But broadcasters and film-makers are angry with government stance. Either trust us or don't, but there cannot be a half-trust, half suspicion kind of gestures. The IBF code gives in detail what can go on air and what can't. Also, the adult-band will be late-night to early-morning on addressable platforms. Basically, government wants to control everything, else it has no business in getting into the detailing of adult content, a film and television director said requesting anonymity.

The IBF code gives out a detailed note on what content should go in the 11-5 am time-band. ... Where exceptions are made while depicting nudity, broadcasters should advise viewer discretion and also schedule the programme appropriately.

Programmes containing kissing scenes are permissible if such scenes contextually justified, the programme is scheduled appropriately and the treatment of the scene is handled with sensitivity, the code said.