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BCCC gets more complaints on harm than sex, obscenity & nudity on TV

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NEW DELHI: The story goes that when some visually impaired persons touched different parts of an elephant, each had their own description on what an elephant looked like.

The situation is similar for the average television viewer, who is now forced to differentiate between the meaning of ‘rape,’ ‘molestation,’ and what the authorities term ‘harm.’

When watching television news, TV soaps or feature films on the small screen, one is left aghast and shocked at the number of cases of rape and molestation being reported or depicted. In fact, it is a well known fact that news television channels only report on less than 30 per cent of the rape or molestation cases actually taking place every day.

Various discussions are held on TV channels on why this is happening and why men are turning into barbaric rapists. Even daily soaps and movies telecast by general entertainment channels (GECs) have shown a marked increase in depiction of rape cases, molestation or undignified treatment of women.

In its annual report of 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) said the number of rapes in the country rose by nine per cent to 33,707 in 2014 - with New Delhi reporting 1,813 rapes, making it the city with the highest number of such cases. Mumbai and Bengaluru recorded 607 and 103 rapes respectively.

In 2012, a similar report had highlighted 47 per cent of complaints related to sex, obscenity and nudity.

But amidst all this, the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), the self- regulatory authority for entertainment TV channels, said it was now getting more complaints under Harm and Offence category than those related to sex, obscenity and nudity.

Data released by it showed that BCCC had addressed a total of 27,676 complaints, including 5,262 specific complaints since inception.

The BCCC, which was established by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and is now headed by Justice (Retd) Mukul Mudgal, is considering setting up a mechanism through which complaints regarding content on TV could be lodged via Twitter.

“For the period 3 July, 2012 to 22 August, 2015, the highest percentage (39 per cent) of complaints were related to the theme Harm and Offence, followed by those related to religion and community (28 per cent) of the 4,545 specific complaints,” BCCC secretary general Ashish Sinha said.

This comes as a surprise, especially when compared with the First Status Report in January 2012 when 47 per cent of complaints were related to sex, obscenity and nudity. Now only eight per cent of complaints pertain to sex, obscenity and nudity, BCCC said.

The Harm and Offence theme complaints pertain to portrayal of persons with disabilities, child marriage, abuse or exploitation, stereotyping of women, mistreatment of animals and airing of content offensive to public feeling, BCCC officials said.

“A large number of these complaints were received from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and most were against the content of English TV programmes,” BCCC said. Officials said that even Courts and the I&B ministry are directing issues or complaints to it. 

BCCC claimed that the drop in number of complaints about obscenity appeared to be the result from its constant focus in this area adding that the bulk of penal action taken was related to this aspect.

However, the BCCC had no answer when asked if the lesser number of complaints related to obscenity reflected a greater level of maturity, only adding that no such study had been done.

Even as all this appears difficult to accept when one sees the soaps and films on GEC channels, Justice Mudgal said the self regulatory mechanism was doing well. In fact, he said there had been 100 per cent compliance of its directions by member channels of IBF.

The BCCC also said that among complaints relating to crime and violence were nearly 11 per cent of the specific complaints between 3 July, 2014 and 22 August, 2015. The objections were not only against crime-based shows but also against violence shown in daily soaps as well as reality shows.

Eleven per cent complaints of the 4,545 specific complaints were related to horror programmes while those pertaining to depiction of smoking scenes, consumption of alcohol and drugs were found to be less than one per cent.

Approximately 28 per cent of the complaints under the religion and community theme, where most complaints pertained to mythology-based programmes aired on various channels.

Sinha said BCCC did not go into interpreting mythology as it felt there were various interpretations prevalent and the council did not find itself competent to do so.

Two per cent of the complaints pertained to grievances against depiction of wrong map of India, insult to the National Flag and wrong portrayal of court proceedings.

BCCC also said it has issued 15 detailed orders to channels in which broadcasters were asked to run apology scrolls and in four cases to furnish financial penalties.

Perhaps the average viewer needs to be educated on how ‘harm’ is different from rape or molestation, especially when women and children or differently abled persons are involved.   

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