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Kid gloves regulation- Part 1
How is self regulation of television in India working? Does it have the capacity to rein in wayward channels? Do the self regulatory mechanisms set up by the industry have bite? Or do they merely rap offenders on the knuckles? Is merely being asked to air an apology is enough to get them to clean up their act, asks INDIRA AKOIJAM. Pix: announcing formation of the BCCC.
Posted/Updated Friday, Feb 10 11:41:32, 2012
How is self regulation of television in India working? Does it have the capacity to rein in wayward channels? Do the self regulatory mechanisms set up by the industry have bite?
 
The year 2011 saw self-regulation initiatives by Indian broadcasters take further hold with the formation of the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) in June. This followed the setting up of the self regulatory authority of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) in late 2008. Both initiatives are essentially aimed at keeping government out of regulating the TV sector, while responding to pressure to tackle the decreasing quality of content on an increasing number of TV channels.
 
With the rising number of TV channels, the key challenge is that there is too much content on television to monitor. And the channels are often accused of plumbing depths when it comes to standards of content, resulting from the intense competition for viewers among these channels. Realizing the need to self regulate and address complaints, the News Broadcasters Association and the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council were formed to play a proactive role in censuring offences by news and non-news channels, respectively. A large number of complaints have been received by the BCCC which proves the rising number of offences committed by the channels. The NBA does not say on its website how many complaints it received, and did not respond when asked. It is vital to take a look at how these bodies have been exercising their powers. Have they been light-handed in their decisions or have they successfully tightened the noose around the channels?
 
The Hoot reviews how the NBA and the BCCC have performed in the past few months in terms of their objectives of self-regulation.
 
BCCC, the body that regulates non-news programmes on television is empowered to investigate complaints from viewers or from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and direct the channels concerned to remove objectionable content if necessary. More than 3000 complaints were filed since its formation in 2011. But what is interesting to note here is that only a small percentage, 13.5%, were taken up for reviewing or hearing. More than half i.e. 55.7% of the total complaints received by the BCCC were not taken up on grounds of not relating to complaints against TV content. The remaining complaints which formed 23.5% of the total number, were related to advertisements, movies, and news, or related to non IBF members (the Indian Broadcasting Foundation set up BCCC) and were subsequently handed over to the respective associations.
 
                                            NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS RECEIVED BY BCCC
 
NO
DESCRIPTION
NO. OF COMPLAINTS
1
Complaints not relating to the Content/Suggestions
2012
2
Complaints against advertisements
227
3
Complaints against movies
58
4
Complaints against News Content
239
5
Miscellaneous complaints
276
6
Complaints against non-IBF channels
48
7
Complaints against quizzes/prizes
260
8
Specific complaints that were considered
490(of which, 63 complaints have been received from the I & B Ministry)
 
TOTAL
3610
 
 
GROUNDS ON WHICH COMPLAINTS WERE REJECTED
 

NO
COMPLAINTS AGAINST
NO. OF COMPLAINTS
ACTION ON THE REJECTED COMPLAINTS
1
Not relating to the Content/Suggestions
2012
Rejected
 
2
Advertisements
227
Handed over to Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)
3
Movies
58
Handed over to Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)
4
News Content
239
Handed over to News Broadcasters Association
5
Miscellaneous complaints
276
Not specifically related to content and are general in nature
6
Non-IBF channels
48
Forwarded to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting

 
It is interesting to note that the BCCC received 239 complaints against news contents that were accordingly, handed over the NBA. But we don’t know how many of these the NBA took up because a mere 9 decisions were taken by the authority during the years 2009- 2011 on the complaints received. A sizeable number of the decisions were taken against sensationalisation of news,  insensitive use of visuals and false information in respective programmes.
 
Out of the 490 complaints that were taken up by BCCC for hearing, the maximum complaints were against the Rakhi Sawant-hosted programme, Gajab Desh ki Ajab Kahania (58), and the appearance of porn star Sunny Leone on “Bigg Boss” (37). The BCCC’s objection to Bigg Boss was not that it was violating the self-regulation guidelines, but it took offence at Ms. Leone’s blog where feed from Bigg Boss was used to promote her website. The channel was directed to exercise caution in selecting participants to the show in future.
 
 
 
MAXIMUM COMPLAINTS AGAINST SUNNY LEONE AND RAKHI SAWANT
 

PROGRAMME
CHANNEL
TOTAL NO. OF COMPLAINTS
NATURE OF COMPLAINTS
DECISION TAKEN
Bigg Boss 5
Colors
37
Entry of “porn star Sunny Leone” and alleged promotion of pornography through the show and children being exposed to porn industry.
Directed Colors to exercise caution while selecting participants for such Reality Shows in future.
BCCC strongly objected to Ms. Sunny Leone using her appearance on Bigg Boss-5 as promotional material on her own websites.
All references, pictures, videos of Bigg Boss-5 Show and Colors should be removed from Ms.Sunny Leone’s website and failing which, the Channel should remove Ms. Sunny Leone from the programme.
Gajab Desh ki
Ajab Kahania
Imagine TV
58
Indecent dressing, abusive and obscene language, vulgar content.
Directed the channel to exercise discretion in future while selecting the content of the programme.
 
Imagine TV submitted the undertaking confirming that the channel would not telecast the episode telecast on 5thAugust, 2011 during the general viewing hours.
 
BCCC decided not to take further action after receiving the undertaking from the channel.
 

 
As TV shows and channels turn aggressive in their race for TRPs, obscenity has touched an all-time high. 140 complaints have been filed against youth-based and other reality TV shows that are aired on Channel V, UTV Bindaas and MTV for use of abusive language by its participants/ hosts. Most of the shows are loosely based on western concepts of love and dating game shows, etc. Uncensored clips of shows such as Emotional Atyachar are being watched by thousands of people on You Tube and similar shows like Roadies and Axe ur Ex that revolve around young audience tend to go overboard with abusive language and slangs.
 
                                                     CATEGORIES OF COMPLAINTS
 
CATEGORIES OF COMPLAINTS
NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS
Violence towards women
34
Excessive violence/ gore
19
Abusive language
140
Sexual Content/ Obscenity/ Adult Content/ Indecent Act/ Nudity
113
Incitement of communalism/ child marriage/ occult/ superstition
12
Incorrect/ false/ misleading information
5
Cruelty on animals
18
Miscellaneous
151
 
English entertainment channels on the other hand, have been popular particularly among the young urban audience. Thirty five complaints were against the depiction of sexuality in such English GECs. BCCC advised these channels to not telecast such programmes during the general viewing hours and prohibited telecast in some cases. Most of the complaints were against nudity and scenes that do not suit Indian sensibilities. Broadcasters have also been regulating them on their own: there have been instances of TV channels practising self-censoring by obliterating scenes that are central to a show's plot leaving the scenes in the show disjointed. It is interesting to note that some of the shows (“Free Radio” and “Californication”) have been taken off air. BCCC members conveyed to the channel that some of these programmes were telecast during general viewing hours are not suitable for Children and Young viewers.
 
78 complaints were against the sexual contents/ nudity that appear on Lifestlye/ Fashion and English GECs. Despite the staggering number of complaints, the BCCC has been very mild in terms of decision making. It has merely issued an advisory asking the channels not to air such programmes in general viewing hours. It is also noticed that the complaints against such channels were not upheld as they were found not to violate the self regulatory content guidelines. 
 
Hindi soaps in GECs such as Colors, Sony, Star Plus, and Imagine TV had to face the ire of BCCC over various programmes, for allegedly inciting communal and racial feelings and for portraying crime against women. TV series like Prayashchit Gunahon Ka, Crime Patrol, were at the receiving end for portraying violence against women, while Na Aana Iss Des Mein Lado, which is aired on Colors, got maximum complaints among all the Hindi GEC soaps for various offences that also include portrayal of exploitation of women and, according to the complainants, it promoted honour killing. The channels were told to exercise restraint while portraying violence against women. The BCCC also warned the channels not to repeat the offending programmes along with a general advisory to all channels to avoid the same in future. 34 complaints were filed for the depiction of violence towards woman while 19 complaints were against shows like Crime Patrol in Sony that showed graphic representation of gore and violence. Though the complaints against the offences are serious the BCCC after the hearing did not direct the channels with any strict actions but it simply issued an advisory urging the channels to tone down such graphic representations in the future. 
 
 
REGULATORY ACTIONS TAKEN ON CHANNELS BASED ON TYPE OF COMPLAINTS RECEIVED

CATEGORIES OF COMPLAINTS
NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS
NUMBER OF CHANNELS CALLED FOR HEARING
TYPE OF ACTIONS TAKEN
Violence towards women
34
6
Sony TV, ZEE Bangla, Colors, ZEE Telegu, Life OK, Star Jalsa
Issued Advisory
Asked to tone down depiction in graphic manner
Not to air on general viewing hours
Excessive violence/ gore
19
3
Colors, Sony TV, Star Pravah
Asked to modify the content
Abusive language
140
4
Imagine TV, UTV Bindaas, Sony, Suvarna Kannada Channel
 
Asked to give undertaking
And to exercise discretion in content
Sexual Content/ Obscenity/ Adult Content/ Indecent Act/ Nudity
113
14
Star Plus, Zee Café, Fox Crime, TLC, Star World, Zoom, UTV Bindaas, MTV, Channel V, Imagine TV, Zee Trendz, BIG CBS Love, BIG CBS Spark, Colors
Asked to give undertaking
Nothing objectionable in some cases
Incitement of communalism/ child marriage/ occult/ superstition
12
2
Colors, Zee Tv
Within the parameters of IBF’s Self Regulatory Content Guidelines and is not in contravention of the same.
Incorrect/ false/ misleading information
5
3
Gemini Telegu, Discovery, Asianet
Forwarded to Ministry of I & B
No violation of IBF’s Self regulatory guidelines
Cruelty on animals
18
1
Colors
Laws with regard to use of animals have been complied
No violation of IBF’s self regulatory content guidelines
 
Miscellaneous
151
---------
 
Did not find any merit and did not uphold the complaints

 

In all the decisions that were taken by the two self regulatory bodies, it can be seen that the BCCC and the NBA have not taken strong punitive actions against the channels that violated the guidelines of the respective bodies. Most of the channels were merely warned to not repeat the said programme in a repeat telecast by issuing a general advisory and also to run an apology on their channels which are not strong actions. Stricter punishment such as fines would reduce the number of notices issued to channels and that would subsequently lead to less frequent violations of the guidelines.

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