Thursday, January 18, 2007

Moral Police Ministry arrests AXN

That’s all we needed. Whims and fancies of a Minister for Information and Broadcasting are enough for a channel to be banned for two months.
AXN airs the “World’s Sexist Advertisements” post 11 PM, and the MIB believes the show was affecting “public morality”.
This, despite the fact that the proposed Broadcast Bill explicitly (pun unintended) allows adult content to be aired after 11 PM.
And, as Governments in India do, they go after soft targets that get them the headlines. There is no effort to stop the sale of pornographic (and, one must add, pirated) DVDs which are available on the streets of every metro in India and accessible to anyone, major or minor, with Rs. 50 to spare. But going after vendors on the streets could mean a loss of votes, while going after AXN would not.
The possible repercussions of this decision are too horrific to consider. I haven’t seen the program that caused AXN to be banned, but, from what one gathers from reports on the content, there are any number of programs on any number of other channels which could easily result in their being banned when measured by the same yardstick.
On the surface, AXN does not seem to have crossed any of the limits set by the proposed Broadcast Bill. However, that is not how the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting has interpreted the show.
Where does that leave programming heads and scheduling heads? At the mercy of a self-righteous individual who could cause a channel to be banned, to cause revenues to be in suspended animation, to cause jobs to be lost?
In this age of colour TV, we need a Black and White policy in place. Where there is no grey on when the MIB can, and cannot, ban a channel.
And something like an AXN ban cannot happen again.

...and the law is not an ass

Prathibha Naitthani, the Lecturer from St. Xavier’s College who (successfully) filed a Public Interest Litigation asking the courts to step in and stop adult movies being telecast on Star Movies, HBO and Zee Studio, filed another one asking for censorship of programs including Baywatch, Sex and the City and Bikini Island.
The Bombay High Court, while disposing the petition held (as reported in the Indian Express) “that although the Act prescribes all telecast programs be subject to censorship, the government had more important things to worry about than waste time on this…”
That’s the good part.
The bad part? The Court has directed the Central Board for Film Certification to evolve a mechanism for checking content, the same IE report adds.
So a board with an average age of 50 plus will decide what a country with an average age that is hurtling south should watch.
Not cool, no.

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