'U' certification for programmes not new: I&B ministry

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Seems like information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has unwittingly created a controversy where there was none.

Media reports yesterday quoted Prasad as saying that all TV channels, barring news channels, would have to air programmes that can be certified or has been certified 'U' (fit for people under 18) by the Censor Board.

After the reports set the pulses racing at various TV channels, the I&B ministry is on a fire-fighting mission.

Though Prasad was unavailable for comments, a senior official of the ministry tried to explain that this was "nothing new" as the Cinematography Act and the Cable TV (Network) Regulation Act already has the provision for showing programmes that can be categorised 'U'.

The official hastily added that the minister never said anything on the movie channels getting pre-certification to air movies - English or Hindi.

What's more, none of the TV channels seem to have received any communication from the ministry to this effect yet.

When contacted, both Star India and MTV said they have not heard from the government. HBO and Hallmark could not be contacted for a response. As for Zee MGM, a cautiously guarded Zee Telefilms spokesperson said, "We are yet to receive the letter from the government. We don't know the details as yet, but shall adhere to the government directives."

Adding more confusion is the Censor Board chief Anupam Kher. Media reports had quoted Kher as saying, "When we have taken up the job, we have to do it", however, when contacted by, Kher almost back-tracked. "Censor Board's signal has to be obtained for film promos and music videos only," he said over phone.

What about the minister's statement on film channels also being brought under the Censor Board's ambit? "Well, I don't think the movie channels are there. They can do with some self-regulation nonetheless," he explained, repeating the ministry's line that everything about `U' certified programming is there in the existing Acts and it is only the implementation that is being done stringently now.

To a poser whether the government or the Censor Board can decide what the people want to watch or not, Kher quipped, "We have received complaints from thousands of organisations, especially women's, objecting to vulgar music videos. The government has to stop vulgarity."

The million rupee question is, can the government do such a thing? If implemented - even if the diktats are old - the government does not have the logistics in place to monitor all TV channels. India gets at least 100 TV channels.

Earlier too, a proposal was mooted in the ministry (when Anil Baijal was the additional secretary-broadcasting) that all films to be shown on movie channels would need pre-certification. The proposal had died a natural death.

But, if the government and the minister is serious about dumbing down the Indian hoi-polloi, then Cartoon Network and the likes may see a boom in viewership in the near future.

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