Television
Report on Hindi News Viewership

TV turning bold?

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MUMBAI: Two years ago, the television premiere of Ekta Kapoor’s The Dirty Picture became a magnet for controversy, when at the nth hour the Information & Broadcasting Ministry banned Sony Entertainment Television from airing the film before 11pm, citing its adult content and sexual innuendo as reason.

While the movie did eventually premiere on SET at 8pm, it was only after four months, and with as many as 56 cuts advised by the Censor Board for Film Certification (CBFC).

In sharp contrast, the world television premiere of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela on the same channel in February was a bit of a pushover.

No reservations were raised by the government and the movie was aired during primetime and without any cuts. What’s more, the film garnered 8,900 TVTs and helped SET make it to the top four channels after struggling at the bottom for 20 weeks.

One can see a similar trend with some of the current TV shows. Remember Ekta Kapoor’s show Bade Achche Lagte Hain? An intimate scene between the serial’s lead actors Sakshi Tanwar and Ram Kapoor was aired.

So, is Indian television becoming bold or has the audience come of age to accept more and more of such content. We spoke to a cross-section of industry to find out.

“It is not really so much about TV getting bolder as much as acceptance for this kind of content. The audience is becoming a lot more mature to accept it. It is not something you can say is limited only to GECs; it is across the board. It is largely media-driven than anything else. The awareness has gone up and there is so much international content that we are consuming that it doesn’t seem so odd,” said Lodestar UM vice-president Deepak Netram.

“We consume the same kind of content in so many different places that it is really not alarming. At the same time, there is some amount of dissonance in the conservative mindset, which has always been there. I don’t think there is a dramatic shift; it is something that has been happening gradually over a period of time.”

Unlike Netram, Sony Max EVP and business head Neeraj Vyas said he wouldn’t have gone ahead and aired the whole movie without cuts the way SET did. “A Ram-Leela kind of movie cannot be watched when you are with your family. When it comes to Max, I will ensure that I cut at least 10 minutes of the movie,” he said.

Star India’s attitude has been completely different to that of SET. An upcoming episode of the celebrity chat show Koffee with Karan featuring Freida Pinto and Nargis Fakhri turned out so steamy that Star World decided to serve the ‘adults only’ brew at11pm instead of the usual 9pm slot.

“Staying within the IBF guidelines, we didn't want to air the episode before 11 pm. The alternative would have been to edit out a lot of the conversation, which we chose not to do. The episode is worth staying up late for,” said Star India content head, English GECs Rasika Tyagi.

At the same time, Star Plus, another channel within the Star Network, remains unapologetic about airing an adult-themed show Ishq Kills every Sunday at 10pm. Interestingly, the very same channel telecast adult-themed shows such as Maryada - Aakhir Kab Tak and Kaali - Ek Agnipariksha during late primetime back in 2010.

Meanwhile, a channel like Channel V, a lot of whose content tends to be edgy, maintains a fairly high standard of self regulation of censorship.

“A lot of the content that we do tends to be edgy. If you look at Heroes or Gumraah, they are fairly edgy subjects. But a lot depends on how you actually create them and also on how you plan and execute. While Heroes by the nature of the subject is quite edgy, we feel it is a topic which needs to be discussed and spoken about. And the way we treat it does not really sensationalize it and does not make it difficult to watch with the family. Therefore, that is really the yardstick that we apply. The topics and subjects might be edgy, but we definitely don’t want to make them sensational,” said Channel V (designation) Channel V general manager and EVP Prem Kamath.

“Everyone runs their own code of self regulation mechanisms and it depends on what the internal mechanism is allowing them to do. There is an overall body - the BCCCI, which puts down guidelines. If you speak about Channel V or even the Star network channels, we hold a fairly high standard of self regulation of censorship.”

According to Kamath, there is a strong social responsibility. “If it’s a family viewing channel, there is a certain kind of content you can put out during the regular hours, and if we feel any content is pushing the envelope of boldness and is not suitable for general viewing, we push it to a time slot which is probably late night. Or a lot of times, we don’t air it at all. So, I don’t think there is one brush that paints all the channels, it’s different for different channels,” he said.

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