was okay till the moral police did not raise a hue and cry. But
when they did, an official of the Delhi chapter of the censor board
was transferred some months ago. Reason: He had given a 'U' certificate
to DJ Doll's Kaanta Laga music video. The government, which
still controls top appointments at the Censor Board, felt that Kaanta
Laga was too hot for the Indian television audience to be given
a 'U' certificate and should have been given an 'A' certificate
that would have made it slightly difficult for satellite channels
to play this music video at all times.
Now, newly appointed chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification
Anupam Kher too, has made clear his intentions about not letting
sleaze go unchecked on television. But there's a catch. Kher's initial
remarks also dwelt on the plethora of relationships that Indian
soap characters get into, a trend that according to the new CBFC
chairman was disturbing.
Kher later retracted, claiming the offhand remarks were made casually,
the statements thrust the grey area of Indian television censorship
into the glare of public scrutiny. While most Indian broadcasters
(including broadcasters uplinking from outside) do adhere to indigenously
developed codes of programming conduct, there is a singular lack
of a governing body that could monitor programming, check lapses
and report erring broadcasters.
the absence of such filters, programming is mostly at the will of
broadcasters. Be it an 'A' (adult) rated film, supposed to be shown
only in the late night slot but repeated in the afternoons, or a
Chadti Jawani video aired at all times during the day, viewers
are at the mercy of the broadcaster. While pubcaster Doordarshan
maintains decorum with sanitised shows and social messaging; channels
like Trendz, AXN, SS Music and Zee MGM are not bound by such moral
extreme violence, skin show and licentious conduct aired blithely
on television go unreported. Industry insiders insist that though
the censor laws are uniform, a lot of film producers and music video
makers obtain censor certificates from South India. Unlike in the
UK, where there is a watershed mark of 9 pm, beyond which adult
content can be aired, Indian broadcasters are not bound by any such
a channel like Zee Cinema in the UK has to apologise to the Independent
Television Commission (ITC) for mistakenly airing gory scenes from
an uncut version of the Salman Khan starrer Baaghi, in India
it is not bound by much censorship, thanks to the lack of a definite
and ex-censor board chairperson Asha Parekh is one of those who
feel that television needs a censor board. "I am appalled by the
lack of decency. Just take a look at the music videos our kids are
watching. Don't get me wrong here, I don't want to see women wrapped
in six yards of sari but I want the programming to be a bit more
tasteful. Even the so-called serials that showcase Indian tradition
and culture are full of extramarital affairs. And since parents
aren't doing the screening, there should be somebody to police it,"
brings us to the touchy issue of a creative license in the business
of television software. While Kher and Parekh insist the extramarital
relationships are detrimental to viewers, others like veteran TV
personality Vinta Nanda insist the veto finally rests with the viewer
who wields the remote. TV tracker and columnist Shailaja Bajpai
has a point when she says that censorship guidelines of the country
the channels are uploaded from, apply. Which leaves most channels
out of the Indian censorship bracket.
Irani: "We don't show anything against society norms"
Mein Niklla Hoga Chand producer Aroona Irani defends the broadcaster,
however. "I really don't see the need for censor board for the Hindi
entertainment channels. We don't usually show anything against the
society norms. As for the current status of censorship norms, all
the channels that I have worked with have their own guidelines,
which I think are fair and competent enough."
Star has its Standards and Practices diktat from Hong Kong, which
screens content for imitable behaviour, incestous relationships
and child abuse, B4U insists on content check for all videos shown
on air from the music companies or producers, especially in the
cases where the channel feels that it can hurt viewer sensitivities.
It also has a Quality Control team within the programming section
that filters the content.
Nair: "B4U does not shy away from regulatory interventions"
B4U Television Network vice president Ravi Nair, "Most developed
countries have programming and content codes governed by independent
bodies. There is no harm in regulatory interventions, as even feature
films have it. So why not television content?" He further adds,
"B4U does not shy away from any kind of regulatory interventions
as the channel is meant for family viewing and is pretty keen that
viewer sensitivity is respected."
Deb - "V adheres to stringent norms"
so, videos of Chadti Jawaani and Kaanta Lagaa have
been making the rounds of all music channels at all hours. Channel
[V] from the Star stable too, insists that every video that comes
in goes through a system of checks and balances before it is passed.
Says the channel's head honcho Amar Deb, "We have extremely stringent
norms. We have an internal audit system which is called S&P - Standards
and Practices. A music video only plays on air if it passed by them.
We always insist on a 'U' certificate if we find the content to
be slightly strange."
consensus among music channels is that censorship should be tackled
at the grass root level, that is, with the people who make these
videos and not the channel that is airing them. Hence there needs
to be a regulatory policy with every record label as they are the
ones who make these videos.
draws the fine line between vulgarity and sensuality?
however, points out that they do not leave it just to the music
companies on this score. Channel [V] edits suggestive parts out
of videos not only with vulgarity but also things like smoking,
alcohol and violence. Says Deb, "Extreme violence, vulgarity are
definitely a no no. But then again, there is a difference between
vulgarity and sensuality. So we must be mature enough to appreciate
the question in point is - who draws the fine line between vulgarity
have been a couple of videos that have pushed the limit. It is interesting
to note that some of these controversial videos came with a 'U'
certificate from the censor board itself to the various channels.
is the case with scenes of violence in movies as well as on the
news channels. A furore over the dramatisation of a rape in the
capital on Aaj Tak recently died without any policy review, apology
or censor board action.
bhi ho sakta hai' on Indian television
HBO airs a sanitised version of Sex and the City, bowing
to Indian sensibilities, advertisers are not an equally considerate
lot. The DSP Black 'Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai' ad raised the hackles
of many for portraying the steadily plunging neckline of a female
model and was finally pulled off air. Despite government regulation,
however, surrogate advertising for both liquor and tobacco continue
unabated on some channels, like SS Music.
absence of a stringent code on advertising content saw an ad for
the Fair and Lovely cream demeaning the dusky girl child as not
having the capacity to earn bread for the family. The ad was pulled
out only after a women's organisation took the matter to the highest
echelons of the government. The Advertising Standards Council of
India continues to be a toothless tiger, waiting for more powers
that will allow it to be stricter with advertisers.
A few months ago, a Balaji serial Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii too
had to apologise for an episode that showed a foetal sex determination
test favouring a male child, but only after the Maharashtra Women's
Commission insisted on one.
still from an AXN show featured on its India website
on Indian television, in terms of language, skin show and violent
scenes has been becoming liberal since the days of Only Doordarshan.
Fierce competition for eyeballs, the elusive advertiser and the
fickle ratings add to the desire to pump in content that entices,
if not necessarily, educates.
from Kher's stated position on the matter, how long such
"enticing" content will continue to be aired is a moot
point. According to Virendra Singla, regional officer, Censor Board
Film Certification (CBFC) Mumbai (he spoke on behalf of Kher): "Mr
Kher and I had a discussion yesterday afternoon on how we need to
make television more family oriented. We came to the conclusion
that all programmes need to go through the Cable Act."
Cable act was amended in 2000 to meet this need, but unfortunately,
the implementation has not materialised. We are the certifying agency.
The enforcing agencies (collectors, police, etc) will have to do
this. They have often cited that they have other more important
things to attend to, even when it comes to putting the Cinematographer's
Act in practice in case of movies. But now, considering the growing
vulgarity on the small screen, we are taking this issue up with
the highest authorities in the government - that X-raying every
programme under the Cable Act also becomes their priority."
Censor Board chairpersons have vowed, initially, to purge Indian
television of its ills and bring order to the chaos. While hardly
any steps have been taken, any incumbent wishing to take on the
responsibility would also have to walk the fine line between cutting
out the crass, ensuring strict timetables and stepping into creative
territory. If Kher manages to do that, it will be a major milestone
for the industry.
the end of the day though, what is required is a set of standards
that govern broadcasting. The ITC in the UK is an excellent model
that is worth following. And till such time as there is a framework
of rules, it will remain left to the perceptions and personal prejudices
of whoever is at the helm of the Censor Board to set forth his or
Close watch: TV
in most countries is closely monitored
"TV channels have disappointed
me by and large" - R.S. Prasad
start censoring, there is no end to it" - Shailaja Bajpai
"Censorship in India
is an eyewash" - Vinta Nanda