INDIA: Local channels play it dirty

'See no sleaze, hear no sleaze,' may be the strict stance adopted by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for TV programming, but locally the censor scissors don't seem to be going snip

The Times of India
Wednesday, December 3, 2003

'See no sleaze, hear no sleaze,' may be the strict stance adopted by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry for TV programming, but locally the censor scissors don’t seem to be going snip.

Movies, music videos and other programmes aired by television channels as per the Information and Broadcasting Minstry’s regulations have to be heavily censored but inspite of these strictures, the local channels run by city-based cable operators are showing the nudge-nudge, wink-wink stuff without the censor scissors going snip!

The private channels are showing objectionable music videos and uncensored adult English movies late at night, accessible simply at the flick of the remote. So right from Basic Instinct to Blue Lagoon, the uncensored versions of adult English movies are being shown right under the nose of the authorities.

According to Entertainment Tax Commissioner, Sanjeev Dubey, all channels including the cable operators' private channel fall within the purview of TV censorship rules and regulations and should adhere to the norms. But he admits, "We have in fact, received quite a few complaints in this regard. Cable operators found flouting rules can be severely penalised. In fact movies shown on private channels should have a censor certificate. All the channels fall under the Indian Cinematograph Act and so any material shown on local channels should also be censored."

Under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, unrestricted public viewing is allowed only for films and film-related content which has been given a U-certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification. Since the I&B Ministry has raised the point, under the Programme Code of Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, no programme should be carried in cable service which is not suitable for unrestricted public viewing. And that’s how the censor axe falls on TV channels.

And while the I&B Ministry is going blue in the face, speaking out and subjecting all raunchy music videos and English movies on TV through a heavy round of censorship, the eyebrow-raising Kaanta Laga and Chadti Jawani videos can be viewed easily on the cable operators’ local channel or video channel.

Rajesh Handa, cable operator who runs Rajdhani Channel, a local channel which is a united enterprise of 150 cable operators of Lucknow defends the movies and music videos shown locally. "In almost 60% cases the English movie CDs and DVDs available in the market are sans censor certificate. But since we show these movies on the consumer’s demand we have no option but to comply."

But isn’t that in defiance of censorship norms? "At our level we try to screen all the movies that we show late at night but sometimes we miss certain scenes. Even we don’t want to show such adult films but if the subscriber demands it we can’t say no. If only the DM could come out with an order on this issue."

Interestingly, DM Navneet Sehgal on being informed of such a request, says, "We would like to issue an order in the media in this regard rightaway, that if any cable operator is found showing adult movies or banned music videos, we would immediately prosecute them."

And that’s definitely not an indecent proposal!

Published: Wednesday, December 03, 2003