Regulators

Draft broadcast code pushes for self-regulation

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NEW DELHI: A draft of the broadcasting code being proposed by the government, in consultation with the industry, attempts to give a big push to self-regulation and certification by broadcasters.

What's the basic rationale in the draft for content regulation? It is for an industry-wide "self-regulation mechanism, which is dynamic and progressive" and is based on standards, principles, norms and processes evolved and implemented by the content regulator through "active compliance" of the member licensee /advertisers.

However, the draft codes now being examined by various constituents of the industry also makes it clear that all types of programming, including films, cannot be shown during any part of the day as there is a need to protect children from unrestricted viewing. Especially if the access cannot be controlled like in a DTH service.

"The licensee's responsibility for sensitive scheduling of programmes may reduce a risk of offence to the minimum," the draft code says.

Further, it adds that at certain times, parents will want to be

confident that their children can watch television "unsupervised without the risk of being exposed to unsuitable material." At other times, they can accept more challenging material and can reasonably be "expected to take greater control over their children's viewing,"

The draft, which has been prepared by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) on the request of a 30-member government-sponsored panel set up to structure content-related regulation, categorically states: "The TV programmes should take care of the broadcast

between 4 pm and 7 pm adhering to the all the programming guidelines."

However, some exceptions have been proposed in time bands. For example, programmes that belong to a mature/adult genre, could be allowed to be aired on television from 7 pm to 4 pm (presuming children viewership is not

high during this time) with disclaimer after editing scenes containing sex and nudity.

Programmes that belong to the adult genre, the draft code proposes, could be allowed to be aired on television from 10 pm to 6 am, with a disclaimer.

"Such (adult) programmes would be edited to fit the genre of adult movies for India (like snipping explicit sex scenes and nudity, full frontal and back nudity, scenes showing genitalia of animal or human or overt sexual situations)," the draft code suggests.

Interestingly, it says that where the TV viewing is subject to access control (like DTH) or are available only on demand, programming suited for adults could be "allowed through the day."

In what might affect sting operations by TV channels, the draft proposes consent of the party recorded before airing anything.

"If it becomes clear that a call that has been recorded will be

broadcast ---but this was not explained to the other party at the time of the call --- then the licensee must obtain consent before broadcast from the other party, unless it is warranted not to do so," the draft says a bit ambiguously.

It has been suggested that ads relating to some products or services like betting tips, betting and gaming, all tobacco products, private investigation and escort agencies, occult and magical remedies/medicines are "unacceptable."

Pointing out that the time available to prepare the draft was short, Ficci has clarified that it has been built upon the Ofcom regulations (of the UK) in context of the Indian laws and prevalent ground realities, while borrowing some improvements from TELA regulations and Indian precedents in other sectors.

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