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Films for telecast should be re-certified: Shyam Benegal Committee

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NEW DELHI: Films submitted for telecast on television or for any other purpose should be re-certified.

This has been recommended by the committee on Film Certification headed by renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal set up in January following the controversy relating to film certification in December last year.

The committee has made it clear that any complaints received by the central government should be  referred to the Central Board of Film Certification whose chairperson may, if he considers it necessary to do so, refer the film to a revising committee for examination once again in view of alleged violation of Section 5B(1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.

Regarding the categorisation of films, the committee recommends that it should be more specific and apart from U category, the UA Category can be broken up into further sub-categories – UA12+ & UA15+. The A category should also be sub-divided into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories.

The committee has said that online submission of applications as well as simplification of forms and accompanying documentation should be permitted.

In order to preserve Indian Cinema, the committee recommends that every applicant should deposit the Director’s Cut in the National Film Archives of India for preservation. At present, only the certified version is submitted but the committee felt that the original will 'truly reflect the cinematic history of Indian cinema'.

Out-of-turn certification may be permitted on condition that the applicant pays five times the fee that would have to be paid if the certification were done in the normal course.

Meanwhile, the committee was given time by Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley to give recommendations on the certification of films regarding issues relating to clearances to be obtained from the Animal Welfare Board under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act; depiction of smoking in films wherein films are required to show a disclaimer in every scene that involves smoking, according to a directive from the Health and Family Welfare ministry.

Following the request by the committee, it has been asked to give its recommendations on these issues by 20 June 2016.

An official note said the committee had been set up on 1 January 2016 in sync with the overarching vision of the prime minister Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley to lay down a holistic framework for certification of films.

The committee was asked to lay down norms for film certification that take note of best practices in various parts of the world and give sufficient and adequate space for artistic and creative expression,  lay down procedures and guidelines for the benefit of the CBFC Board to follow and examine staffing patterns with a view to recommending a framework that would provide efficient and transparent user friendly services. 

Other members of the committee are actor and filmmaker Kamal Hassan, filmmakers Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra and Goutam Ghose, ad guru Piyush Pandey, critic Bhawana Somaaya, and National Film Development Corporation MD Nina Lath Gupta. I and B Joint Secretary (Films)   K Sanjay Murthy is Member-Convenor.

The committee also said the  CBFC should only be a film certification body whose scope should be restricted to categorizing the suitability of the film to audience groups on the basis of age and maturity.

However, it could make recommendations to refuse certification if a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952; and when content in a film crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification.

The applicant must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience.

The committee said that the objective of these guidelines would be to ensure that children and adults are protected from potentially harmful or unsuitable content; audiences, particularly parents are empowered to make informed viewing decisions; artistic expression and creative freedom are not unduly curbed in the process of classification of films; the process of certification is responsive, at all times, to social change; and the certification keeps within the rights and obligations as laid down in the Indian constitution.

The highlights of the recommendations of the committee broadly cover the areas related to Film Certification Process and its simplification, Restructuring staffing pattern of central and regional censor advisory panels and re-certification of films for purposes of telecast on television and measures to preserve the identity of Indian Cinema.

The certification of films will be carried out in accordance with the guidelines proposed for certification that have been split into three sections, with each section required to be read with the other two – General Guidelines, Issue Related Guidelines and Category Specific Guidelines.

The committee has also made certain recommendations regarding the functioning of the board and has stated that the board, including chairman, should only play the role of a guiding mechanism for the CBFC, and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films.

The functions of the board shall be confined to the duties defined in the existing CBFC rules, which include an annual review of CBFC work, submission of annual report to the government, review of public reactions to films, and periodic recommendations for revision of guidelines.

Given these limited functions, the size of the board should be compact with one member representing each regional office. Therefore, the total composition of the board should not be more than nine members and one chairman.

Regarding the Regional Advisory Panel the committee has laid down the criteria for appointment. All nine regions will have advisory panels comprising persons who are acquainted with the languages being certified by that regional office.

The panels should have 25 per cent members from all walks of life, recommended by the National Film Development Corporation to the central government; 25 per cent members of the general public recommended by the Federation of Film Societies of India; 25 per cent members recommended by the National Council for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and National Commission of Women (NCW); and 25 per cent representatives of the local film industry as recommended by FFI (Film Federation of India).

Women should have a 50 per cent representation on each panel, the committee said.

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