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Actors shown in smoking scenes in films or TV should promote anti-smoking

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NEW DELHI: The Shyam Benegal Committee on Film Certification, which earlier recommended that alterations or changes in any film can be made by the Central Board of Film Certification only with the consent of the rights holder, has now said that a “meaningful static disclaimer in the beginning of the film with standard visual background approved by the Ministry of Health may be shown for a minimum time period along with an audio backing it.”

SMOKING SCENES

In a supplementary report dealing only with smoking scenes and depiction of animals in films, it has said the disclaimer should be made in all Indian languages and made applicable to all Media Platforms.

However, the periodicity of scenes depicting smoking should be avoided keeping in view the legislations in this regard.  

The Committee also suggested that as an option, producers of that film can make a short film conveying an anti-smoking message ‘by the same actor who is depicted as smoking in the film’.  

It also said the Film Industry should produce small films on anti-tobacco/smoking with popular actors on their own for screening in cinemas halls and on TV Channels. These may replace the present films in the Theatres and TV Channels shown after obtaining clearance from the Health & Family Welfare Ministry.

SCENES SHOWING ANIMALS

Referring to animal welfare and in response to the views of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), the Committee was of the view that there is a need to bring about further clarity and  simplification of the process to allow film producers the operational flexibility that is critically required in any film project. Besides, a better and comprehensive definition of “performing animals” is needed.

The Committee said there should be "licensed suppliers" of Performing Animals (PA) who are qualified in handling various animals and taking care of them as per requirement of the law, whose services can be hired by the Producers.

Such a mechanism would be of great benefit to all stakeholders who need to engage such services. This type of facilitation is available internationally and could be supported by AWBI for adoption, it added.

As an interim measure to cut down the time consumed, the Committee said that a directory of "certified (approved) personnel" of AWBI including veterinary personnel on the list of AWBI in different parts of the country may be published, enabling producers to intimate them the time of their shooting and, who would then be present at the time of shooting the performing animal scenes.

Based on the report of such certified (approved) personnel, AWBI could issue the NOC. An appropriate fee for the services rendered by such AWBI empanelled experts could also be finalised by AWBI enabling the applicant / producers to remit the same directly to AWBI while availing the services of such empanelled persons.

The Committee said often notices were issued by AWBI with regard to numerous instances where animals in normal settings during the course of shooting are interpreted as "performing animals".

In order to have some clarity on this, Committee said a "performing animal" in case of films may be defined as an animal which is written into the script of the movie, and is required to perform an act which it would not normally do. Such a clarification will allow automatic clearance for scenes of cows, goats, etc. apart from birds which often appear when picturising scenes in villages, small towns etc.

However, it cautioned that it had to be kept in mind whether it is a genuine natural shot or staged for filming which would involve the hiring, transportation, etc. of the animal/s.

The Committee suggests that in such situations, a self-declaration by the producers to this effect be submitted at the time of application to CBFC in lieu of an NOC from the AWBI.

The Committee made its recommendations in the light of the current practice in both smoking scenes and those with animal depiction.  

At present, the shorts on smoking are prepared by the Health Ministry under the Cigarettes and other Tobacco, Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Rules 2012.

These rules say that all new Indian or foreign films and television programmes displaying tobacco products or their use shall have a strong editorial justification explaining the necessity of the display of the tobacco products or their use in the film, to the CBFC; and anti-tobacco spots of minimum 30 seconds duration each at the beginning and middle of the films and television programmes; apart from anti-tobacco health warning as a prominent static message at the bottom of the screen during the period of display of the tobacco products or their use in the film and television programme. It is also stated that an audio-visual disclaimer on the ill-effects of tobacco use of minimum twenty seconds duration each in the beginning and middle of the film and television programme.

The present rules with regard to use of animals flow from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and Performing Animals (Registration) Rules 2001 and also the Bombay High Court Judgment on 22 August 2005 in the PETA case.  

These require a Pre-shooting Permission and a No Objection Certificate (NOC) and then it is left to AWBI to accept or deny permission.

In its first report submitted to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on 26 April 2016 but placed on the Ministry’s website in late June, the Committee said that there should be no system of imposing excisions (as is practiced at present) and the CBFC must transition into solely becoming a film certification body, as indeed the name of the institution suggests.

In recommendations that are bound to stir a major debate among moralists and others, the Government-appointed Committee was of the “unanimous view that the rights owner has complete rights over his/her film.”

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