The I&B Ministry move to ban transmission of Comedy Central,an entertainment channel of Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd,for 10 days has rekindled debate on regulation. The action was taken for airing two shows the ministry felt offended good taste and decency.
The broadcasters feel that the ban was excessive and unfair though they agreed that the ministry had the powers to take such a step. Many are of the view that the ministry should have forwarded the complaint against the channel to the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council.
The BCCC,a self-regulatory body set up by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation,separately has concluded that the contents of one of the shows,Comedy Central Presents aired on May 26,2012,was highly objectionable. The BCCC was roped in by the channel after it received a show cause notice from the ministry in June 2012 for the May 26 episode.
A surprised IBF,though unhappy with the quantum of punishment and the manner in which it was done,has not questioned the ministrys action. We are not blaming the ministry for what it has done. It is well within its rights to do so. But it need not have got this nasty, said IBF secretary general Shailesh Shah.
He said the ministry in the last 18 months has sent over 175 complaints to the BCCC and the panel has responded to it extremely well. However,it did not sent this complaint to the body. It should have kept the BCCC informed, he said. BCCC chairman Justice (retd) A P Shah said the complaint on the channel was not sent to the body. Why the ministry dealt with it directly,I dont know, he said.
I&B Secretary Uday Kumar Varma said ,This is an extremely serious violation of the programme code (of the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act,1995). Our view has been endorse by Delhi High Court. The penalty is not disproportionate given the gravity of the violation.
The ban order said the May 26,2012,episode showed a man performing a stand-up comedy,using vulgar words and obscene gestures. The man was shown uttering dialogues denigrating women,indecently and crudely referring to sex organs, the order stated.
The BCCC after viewing the episode had then asked the channel not to air it and advised caution. The channel told BCCC it was genuine mistake and promised not to repeat the episode and drop those with similar content. In reply to the ministrys notice,the channel offered to apologise for inadvertently airing the episode due to unintentional genuine error.
While the process was on,the ministry objected to another show that was aired on July 7. The ministry said the episode of Popcorn showed a person pretended to engage in sex holding a pair of dummy legs,which appeared vulgar,obscene and offended good taste and decency. Shailesh Shah said such shows are new to India and mistakes can happen when a channel tries a new kind of programme.
The ministry managed the issue summarily. It was not fair. It should have called the channel,told them that such programming was not done, he said.
Channel moves division bench
Comedy Central Monday moved a division bench of Delhi High Court against a single judge order that upheld the I&B ministrys move to stop its transmission for 10 days. In its appeal,Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd said the ban will cause irreparable loss and also damage the channels popularity. It claimed that right to operate and broadcast television channel is protected under Article 19.