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On the cutting edge of censorship
AVINASH KALLAIN in New Delhi
The opening of the skies have spawned a cultural invasion on the small screen. With every channel dishing out a pot pourri of entertainment to woo fickle audiences, there is a mad race to enhance viewership at any cost.
But in their desperate attempt to win the popularity sweepstakes, do channels ensure that basic standards of decency and morality are kept up by music videos and serials? Is there a restriction on the kind of stuff channels dole out?
These and many more questions are being asked by media watchers even as videos like Kaanta Laga and Chadti Jawani rotate heavily on music channels.
Should channels draw the line between entertainment and obscenity?
When it comes to censorship guidelines, private channels are definitely not as strict as Doordarshan. But most profess to follow international practices on TV which are far more flexible.
Says Asha Parekh, the former chairperson of the Censor Board, " Yes there must be a clear demarcation of what can be shown and what not. The pre-release of the music videos must be censored and we must admit that there are double standards being followed when it comes to the so-called sizzling videos."
The rule book is common for All India Radio and Doordarshan. Being a public broadcaster DD is answerable both to the Parliament and the public.
Which is why the laws are stricter than those of private channels.
Says Anuradha Prasad of BAG Films which produces serials like Kumkum, Hain Na Bolo Bolo on Star Plus and Haqeeqat on Sahara, “The prime target of the music videos is between the age group of five and 20 years. Many kids don't even understand the songs but blindly follow the gestures. This has a negative impact on their behaviour. Ideally such videos should be given an 'A' certification. Since that's not possible as TV is a family medium some other code has to be framed."
Zee TV, for example, follows guidelines that are stricter than those stipulated by the international code. The channel will not air any programme that denigrates women. Star TV too follows the international guidelines and has a panel that previews all programmes and rejects those that are objectionable.
Most other private channels too have their own panels to preview programmes and even advertisements which may require toning down.
However, DD goes one step further. It's monitoring of most programmes starts right from the time the serial is being produced.
According to a source most producers know DD's requirements as these are discussed when the serial goes under production. Which makes sense because DD's rules are so strict that even the portrayal of murder in a serial cannot be shown in a gruesome and graphic manner.
Says Prasad, "Most channels have very strict guidelines about anything which has the potential of sparking communal or religious sentiments. In fact DD often asks you to submit a form stating that your programme does not contain any such thing."
However, music channels have sometimes been accused of laxity in matters of censorship in videos like Kaanta Laga and Chadti Jawani.
But Radhika Rao and Vinay Sapru who produced both these videos do not think they are suggestive or titillating. "The whole fuss about Kaanta Laga was created after the video became such a massive hit. Critics began talking about vulgarity. But if you look carefully the girl is fully dressed, we just showed her reading an adult magazine that's all that can be objected to."
The duo say they are up to their ears with the criticism heaped on them." If there is so much fuss being made about what is being shown in the music videos then the government should come up with the censorship laws that will be common for all . We as makers will abide by them."
But the mere suggestion of a censorship code for TV by I & B Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has created such a backlash that he's had to beat a hasty retreat. Most observers feel that censorship should rest with the viewers. And they should decide, what to see and what not to see.
Media watcher Sachin Vasudev hits the nail on the head when he says, " As far as TV goes all you have to do is click the remote to make censorship happen. Viewers are the ultimate censors."