Content holiday over, regulator soon

PRIVATE TELEVISION channels will not be enjoying a free run, if a bill being proposed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry comes into force. Censoring of serials will begin and crime thrillers in the 9 p.m. slot may end. If the channels do not follow government guidelines, they will even be taken off the air.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 00:55 IST

PRIVATE TELEVISION channels will not be enjoying a free run, if a bill being proposed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry comes into force. Censoring of serials will begin and crime thrillers in the 9 p.m. slot may end. If the channels do not follow government guidelines, they will even be taken off the air.

According to the new Content Regulatory Bill, the channels will have to set up internal censor boards to vet all programmes, including serials and game shows, before they are telecast. Thrillers, which have content not suitable for children, will be removed from prime time and slotted late at night. The government also wants to clamp down on sensationalisation of news and events, especially in crime programmes.

I&B Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi told HT: "It is the uniform view of viewers that there is a need for content regulation and a comprehensive legislation on it."If the bill is passed, there could be a blanket ban on advertisements not only promoting alcohol consumption and smoking but also those which adversely portray women, show abuse of children and even cruelty to animals.

Now the channels are enjoying a "content holiday" in the name of self-regulation. Though the Centre can revoke licences under the existing law, it wants to spell out the grounds on which the channels can be hauled up. The bill proposes a three-tier mechanism to control defaulting channels - issue show-cause notices, impose penalties and suspend the channels for a short term.
The government says it will ask viewers and information officials to say which channel has overstepped the boundaries.

The bill is expected to come up in the next session of Parliament.

First Published: Apr 17, 2006 00:55 IST