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Notice Show ’Cause...

Every leading entertainment channel has been served a show-cause notice from the I&B Ministry for ‘objectionable’ content, aired on prime time. Else, the station would be shut down. The last instance being comedian Raju Srivastav mooning on Bigg Boss. Check out what’s bothering the ‘big brother’.

entertainment Updated: Nov 03, 2009 19:19 IST
Rachana Dubey

Every leading entertainment channel has been served a show-cause notice from the I&B Ministry for ‘objectionable’ content, aired on prime time. Else, the station would be shut down. The last instance being comedian Raju Srivastav mooning on Bigg Boss. Check out what’s bothering the ‘big brother’.

TV shows, both fiction and non-fiction, have been running into trouble. The I&B Ministry has possibly become more active than ever before. Here’s an attempt to find out where the problem really lies.

It’s been a week since a notice was served to Colors, the top channel in the Hindi General Entertainment space. The reason was a 30-second footage in Bigg Boss 3, in which two female contestants pulled down housemate Raju Srivastava’s pants and bared his butt on the screen.

According to reports, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry last Monday asked the channel in a notice as to why it
didn’t censor the scene and instead publicised it all over the news channels. Colors was asked to reply by the weekend, failing to which the channel stood a chance of losing its license. Matters apparently have been settled.

Over the last two years, almost all the leading channels have been under the scanners:

The Star Plus tear-jerker Bidaai was blacked out in parts of Northern India because the protagonist of the show had
dialogue regarding Valmiki which offended the Valmiki samaj. The actor (Angad Hasija) and the producer (Rajan Shahi) had to get anticipatory bail to avoid being arrested. No news on whether the show has resumed there.

Perfect Bride was accused of hiring professional models as prospective grooms and brides under a non-disclosure contract. The audience apparently felt a breach of trust.

Pati Patni Aur Woh on NDTV Imagine had it when the ministry served a notice to the producers and the channel for mishandling children and employing them on the show 24X7.

Apparently, Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega, in its second season, was pulled off the air because the ministry found the acts objectionable. Even loud requests from the judges, Anu Mallik and Farah Khan, to not repeat the stunts, couldn’t save the show.

Ganesh Leela on Sahara One had a social group accusing the producer and the channel for misleading the audience about various aspects of Lord Ganesh’s life.

Sach Ka Saamna became the talk of Parliament because it was supposedly encouraging explicit sex-oriented discussions and peeping into someone’s private life.

Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao faced flak from the ministry for showing nudity, with men and women bathing in the open.

Self-censorship
Shailaja Kejriwal of NDTV Imagine believes that the medium is still evolving and there are very few guidelines to regulate it. Anupama Mandloi of Star Plus feels that everyone from the producers to the viewers is responsible enough to get into self-censorship and decide what they want to watch and what they don’t.

Kejriwal adds, “When issues were raised about Pati Patni Aur Woh, we didn’t have a plan in place to tackle the issue. With Ramayan, we had played it really safe because we didn’t want anyone’s sentiments to be hurt. The ministry’s issue with Pati Patni.. was that they felt the children weren’t being looked after properly and they weren’t adequate facilities for them. We took them on the sets and showed them around. They were satisfied and the story was over.”

According to Mandloi, there is an on/off switch on all TV sets and viewers are an extremely discerning lot. “We should let them decide whether they approve or disapprove of content. Sach Ka Saamna held viewers even in its new late night slot. The accusations against Perfect Bride were proven false. Sach Ka Saamna will return with season 2,” she beams.

An official from Sony, on condition of anonymity, reveals that the channel was asked to cut down on the footage, which showed people bathing in the open on Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao. “We had to be careful after that notice. With Entertainment Ke Liye Season 2, we were asked to be careful about the acts shown. We became vigilant but didn’t shut the show because of that. It was only meant to be on air for three weeks,” adds the official.

Ashwini Yardi of Colors states that as a responsible brand, the channel operates within the laid-down stipulations, guidelines and self-regulation.

“Since content is subjective, people misinterpret it in a manner that is not intended. We consistently communicate with such people, organisations and bodies, and clarify our stance,” adds Yardi.

Other instances
* Earlier this year, shows like Balika Vadhu, Jai Shri Krishna, Uttaran and some others ran into trouble with the ministry for employing children and making them work for more than eight hours a day. Balika Vadhu was accused of glorifying child marriages and the issue was talked about in the Parliament. A surprise check was made on Balika Vadhu’s sets. . According to Yardi, “When we started out, we knew the subject was delicate and the kind that had never been dealt with on TV. I don’t think the critics have noticed that we always carry a loud message at the beginning and end of every episode about the fact that the show is an attempt to eliminate a social evil.” Ever since, the show runs ample loud messages clearing the channel’s stance on the issue.

* The Haryana State Government was offended by the portrayal of the state’s villages in Naa Aana Is Des Laado. The I&B ministry agreed and felt that it was a misleading presentation of the state, which has progressed and doesn’t encourage female infanticide. Ever since, the channel has made the statutory note in the beginning of the show louder and bigger in font size.

* MTV Roadies has often run into trouble for showing youngsters talking and behaving in a rather brash and abusive way.

* Filmy Stock Exchange on Filmy had created fake currency notes, which the channel had to destroy because they looked too real. The RBI had gotten into action within days discovering the notes.

* Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi was much-talked about for many days because the leading lady of the show, Tulsi played by Smriti Iraani, was shown to kill her own son. Footages were endlessly played on TV till the I&B ministry took note of it. Nothing really happened though.

Has the ministry become overly vigilant of late?
Over the last two years, almost every leading channel has been served a show-cause notice at least for one show. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if someone called this a new status symbol within the competing channels… more the number of notices, higher the popularity of the channel.

Most channels would agree that the ministry of I&B has become extremely active and vigilant over the last two years. According to the I&B Union Minister Ambika Soni, the channels should look into the interests and concerns of every section of society while creating content. Soni stated in Outlook’s September issue, “There is a need to strike a balance between the freedom of press and the sensitivities of civil society. The government, however, has no plans yet to impose restrictions on the content of television channels.”

The ministry had raised issues on Pati Patni aur Woh and said that the programme appeared to be an exploitation of very young children in the pursuit of entertainment. “It also appears that babies are being used as commodities for the sake of reality TV. The visuals of the programme are also in bad taste,” said the ministry.

According to Kejriwal, the ministry is trying to do its best to regulate TV: “Reality shows are still new to the audience and to the ministry. No one knows what to expect and not expect out of a format. So ways to regulate content in these kinds of shows will take a while to come through. Till then, we’re all trying to practice self-regulation as much as possible.

In case of Bigg Boss 3, the ministry officials who spoke to Hindustan Times said that the Raju Srivastav clip had evoked a strong reaction among social groups and political leaders, who objected to semi-nudity on TV.

Mandloi believes that people are mature enough to know what they want. She adds, “It’s high time the viewer understands and decides what it wants to be exposed to. There is ample self-regulation in every media organisation anyway and more specific regulations from the ministry are always welcome.”