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Soni ok to all party meeting on offending ads

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NEW DELHI: Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni today agreed to a suggestion by former I&B minister and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the issue of obscene and objectionable advertisements and commodification of women.

However, she said in answer to a question that a Group of Ministers had been asked to go into this issue and any meeting should be held after the GoM comes to some conclusion.

The GoM had also been asked to study the suggestion for giving more teeth to the Press Council of India to take action against offending newspapers which included cases of paid news.

Meanwhile, she said the Advertising Standards Council of India which was a self-regulatory body of advertisers which dealt with content issues, had suggested to the government that some advertisements could be permitted after 11 pm and this issue was under consideration of the Government. This is a recommendation relating to certain advertisements of ‘Fast Track’, ‘Wild Stone Deo’ and ‘Tata Docomo’ about which the Government had received complaints and forwarded them to Asci.

She said in reply to a supplementary question that the government had drawn up plans for a regulatory body and a bill in this connection was already uploaded on the Ministry’s website. "While the Ministry retains the power to take a TV channel off the Regulatory Act, we are trying to give self-regulation a chance to succeed in this country," she added.

Referring to self-regulation, she said the Asci had drawn up a Code about content and was taking action against offending television channels, while the Press Council of India was going into complaints against the print media.

In the main reply, the Minister said a total of 21 complaints against advertisements on television channels and four in the print media had been heard in the last one year. In the case of the electronic media, most of the complaints were forwarded to the Asci.

On a question about the self-regulatory body Broadcasting Content Complaints Council set up by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation for general entertainment channels, she said a total of 777 complaints had been received since the BCCC began running a scroll in this regard in all channels. Of these, 104 complaints were upheld and a solution was found in the case of 84 others.

Referring to the Ministry, she said ads had been withdrawn or corrected in 85 of the 105 cases where notices were sent on objectionable advertisements in the past few years. "We have had success of over 85 per cent in removing such ads", she said.

At the outset, Soni agreed that the portrayal of women in advertisements has been attracting the attention of not only media critics, civil society, women group, NGOs, Members of Parliament and, in fact, the society as a whole. "It is for this reason that the Government of India, ever since Independence, has formulated laws. I have at least 15 laws which have been formulated from time to time".

She referred to the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act as well as the Inter-Ministerial Committee which heard complaints.

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