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The smut and the restless

It gives cynics like us the idea that the Govt is more keen on leaving spaces in which to conduct arm-twisting operations than to make television viewing a happy experience.

india Updated: Feb 07, 2007 00:54 IST

Fear is the mother of morality. So what is Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi afraid of? One suspects two things: one, backing down from his position of throwing Ganga jal across television channels and confirming his role as the latest Grand Inquisitor from Shastri Bhawan; and two, not being in control of the lucrative entities that India’s I&B Ministers are supposed to be in control of. Our guess is that Mr Dasmunsi’s morality drive and pride in being the nation’s ‘moral inspector for television’ is an attempt to lead us away from the more serious charge of the government as a Soviet-style bully.

This is not the first time that the I&B Ministry has been headed by a nanny who has sleepless nights about the ‘smut’ that is shown on television (especially by broadcasters which have markets other than India to fall back on). Some of the programming may have made Mr Dasmunsi “sick”, but what gives us butterflies in our stomachs is his move to make private channels share their programming with Doordarshan or else... True, the I&B Ministry has only the concerns of millions of people deprived of cable TV on its mind and cannot bear to stand and do nothing while something of ‘national interest’ like the Indian cricket team’s exploits is aired only for a select viewership. But by charging in with an ordinance making non-compliance of sharing ‘certain kinds of’ television feed with Prasar Bharati illegal, Mr Dasmunsi has made the television industry sit up and think of the word ‘nationalisation’ again. Today, cricket matches, tomorrow quiz shows with huge TRPs? Day after, Hindi blockblusters? All by paying a fraction of the amount spent by private broadcasters to procure exclusive rights.

It’s nobody’s case that private broadcasters air anything and everything. Semi-porn at the dinner table does not go down well at all. Let the authorities make a set of rules that channels will stick to, like the airing of adult fare between 11 pm and 5 am, as suggested by Mr Dasmunsi. Bleary eyes apart, that should satisfy everybody. But let’s not have porous words like ‘national interest’ and ‘offensive content’ in the guidelines. It gives cynics like us the idea that the government is more keen on leaving spaces in which to conduct arm-twisting operations than to make television viewing — and broadcasting — a happy experience.