For those of us used to our daily fix of sitcoms, the government’s watchful eye could well be trained on you. Recently, English comedy channel Comedy Central was pulled off the air on the grounds that the government found its content unsuitable for young people in the sense that it was obscene and vulgar.
On November 25, the Delhi high court upheld the Centre’s 10-day ban issued in May 2013 on Comedy Central. The channel went off air for four days last year and resumed after an appeal against the ban was filed in court. The high court had ordered the channel to remain off air for the remaining six days. However, the Supreme Court has now stayed the high court’s ban.
The court rulings apart, the government’s argument is flawed on two counts: One, it is shortchanging India’s youth and taking decisions on their behalf. Second, if the government is so concerned about the potential that certain shows “deprave, corrupt and injure the public morality and morals” it should turn its focus to our desi soaps which obviously have a greater reach and connect than the English TV programmes. Many Indian-made soaps, across the vernacular spectrum, show women being victimised and in perpetual suffering, and should catch the attention of the gatekeepers of our ‘culture’.
Soaps, which show women as inferior to men and which reinforce patriarchal norms where the woman is always the underdog do not seem to generate as much opprobrium as they should. And how can a discussion on showing women as a “commodity of sex” be complete without mentioning the damage cinema, especially Bollywood, does to the Indian woman and ‘culture’. A UN-sponsored global study of female characters in popular films across the world showed that more than 35% women are objectified on screen. Last heard the government has done little to address this anomaly.
While the present government may not have moved for the ban, there is every reason for the present I&B ministry to look into the case and make sure that in future such blackouts and bans come into place only when there is a transgression that warrants severe action. It is also important that such provisions are not misused by those who claim to be the custodians of our collective ‘culture’.
Above all, it is not the government’s business to police the television-watching habits of the people. This is not to argue that all’s well with our entertainment media. There’s plenty of room for improvement and the I&B ministry can play a pivotal role here. What the people want are better and informative content — and not the state policing what they should and shouldn’t watch. Give the people quality content and let them be the masters of their decision. It is simple, if you don’t like something, switch off your TV.