Indian information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley issued a stern warning to TV channels which are banking on nudity and semi-nudity or provocative programming to attract audiences and generate viewership.
"People have protested about how some organisations are taking advantage of liberal norms in India. Why should you have a stripper in a airconditioner ad which was shown recently on television? Why should a condom commercial be so erotic and put on television for all to see," he asked. "If fashion is to be marketed in terms of transparent clothing, and every decency violated on TV screens, I don't know if we can allow that. The cable and satellite industry has to morally police itself. Also advertisers. There are issues which affect our sensibilities. I don't think Indian society is prepared for this. We want a liberal regime. Hard censorship is abhorrent to any democracy. But if industry is not interested then we may have to step in."
Jaitley was speaking while addressing a gathering organised by FICCI on what Indian entertainment should be doing to ensure rapid growth in the new millennium on 30 March.
Jaitley was pretty caustic about his ministry's position on this issue. Should the government step in when we have control devices such as child locks, he was asked. Should it not be the responsibility of the parent or adult?
He responded icicly: "The industry has absolutely no responsibility does it? TV censorship in India is not in the form of pre-censorship. It is like the green channel in the Customs where the onus is on you to declare honestly. But if we allow some channels which are not comlying honestly than five others will get in and take advantage of our liberal attitude. "
Going by Jaitley's statements it is quite likely that the government may shortly come out with a ban against the Michael Adam promoted Fashion Television, which is generating high viewerships in India mainly because of scantily clad models. Jaitley had banned Russian channel TB6 last year because it showed pornographic films and had ordered Indian cable networks to stop carrying it on their networks. Most Indian cable TV operators have complied since.