Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently wished for a little humour to enliven the solemn business of Parliament but MPs are in no mood to be fodder for professional mimicry artists.
The growing trend of radio jockeys imitating parliamentarians on radio with innuendos and puns is a “serious” issue, information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar told Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
In a reference to comments by MP Jaya Bachchan – who finds such jokes “unpalatable” – Javadekar said, “What she (Bachchan) has said is absolutely serious and we have an Electronic Media Monitoring Centre, which is monitoring this.”
The veteran actor-turned-politician had earlier told the House, “They are absolutely objectionable, very bad and the latest thing is that they have started giving news of Parliament and they mimic a lot of MPs who have spoken. So, are you going to do something about it because this is really not palatable?”
Bachchan rose to fame with several rib-tickling roles in hit films, such as the iconic Guddi in 1971.
Content on India’s private FM stations is regulated by clause 11.2 of “grant of permission agreement” between radio firms and the Javadekar-headed broadcast ministry. The rules prohibit disparaging comments on the President, governors and the judiciary and offending remarks on “political parties by name”.
Jokes apart, experts deem some of the rules archaic. “We need to carefully see if a ban on cracking jokes on MPs tramples on free speech. Radio stations, however, cannot be slanderous,” said Arvind Rao of the Chennai-based Institute of Broadcast and New Media Policy.
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien also raised the issue of some RJs being asked to retire at the age of 35, saying he couldn’t understand what “great biological changes” happen after the prescribed age limit.
He was, however, told by Javadekar that the order had been stayed. The minister recalled legendary radio host Ameen Sayani, whose voice enthralled All India Radio audiences for decades. “It’s nothing to do with age,” Javadekar added.