Content clamp

Updated: Jan 26 2005, 05:30am hrs
The information and broadcasting ministrys plan for a separate regulator to monitor and censor the content of programmes on television channels is only the latest instance of the state wanting to play nanny. Censorship of content is not good for any society and that is as true of its imposition in a democracy. Yes, many citizens, concerned at what they or their children are able to see on the screen, will support it. But this is no way to deal with the problem. If its your children youre bothered about, its for you, not the state, to decide what they watch and how they absorb it. Certainly, it cant be easy: it may also be a maid in charge of the child while youre at work, for instance. Thats something youll have to work out for yourself. And once alternatives for choosing what to watch like direct-to-home technologies and set-top boxes become more common you will not be obliged to watch whatever is beamed to your neighbours.

Sure, not everyone has access to these alternatives but even so the state can at best rate programmes in terms of whether it is appropriate for viewing by young audiences. And by laying down that adult programmes, for instance, are only shown late at night. But the point at issue is wider. Censorship of whatever is sought to be offered into your drawing room whether in print, by wireless or whatever is something you, as an adult, must decide for yourself. Why would you give your keys to this higher realm to the state

Content regulation is not simply about stopping the beaming of obscenity and violence, with which rhetoric public support is garnered (keeping aside the large range of opinion on what obscenity should encompass). Everyones got an opinion on what he or she doesnt like to hear anyone expressing praise of multinationals, Saraswati vandana, Marxism, homosexuality, colonialism, the RSS, the Imam, anything likely to present these more favourably...each individual has a wish list of 100-plus. If the state is going to, evolve a broad consensus among these, as the I&B secretary says they will, you can imagine the result. Dont enter this era if you want a liberal society.