The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has expressed its great disappointment over the Content Code finalised by the I&B Ministry. In a letter to Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting PR Dasmunsi, IBF President Jawahar Goel has said that the finalised version “has negated all the positive cooperation and constructive efforts that had gone into framing of the Content Code / Guidelines and the Complaints Redressal Mechanism (CRM) that was given to the Ministry on February 21, 2008”.
IBF said that it had carefully considered the Content Code / Guidelines finalised by the I&B Ministry and enclosed as an Annexure to their affidavit in the Delhi High Court.
“In tune with the technological developments taking place in broadcasting in India, including the convergence of communications and addressable platforms like CAS and DTH, and keeping in view the best practices being followed in democracies across the world, the IBF Code / Guidelines had included such innovative ideas as differing standards for addressable and non-addressable systems, time-scheduling of programming, need for liberal adult fare in addressable systems and in adult watershed for millions of Indians having no access to cinema halls and forced to see pirated movies, etc., were carefully considered and incorporated. These have not even been considered by the Ministry, and picking on a single provision for showing nudity in exceptional circumstances with a number of other safeguards, the IBF draft has summarily been set aside,” the letter to Dasmunsi stated.
IBF further said that it was one of the few organisations that had responded and given its comments to the Code / Guidelines, which was drafted by a four-member Committee in which filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt was representing the entire entertainment industry. In the first paragraph of its response dated June 15, 2006, it was specifically mentioned that in case the Ministry finalised a draft which was more restrictive than the Sub-Committee’s draft, it may not be possible for the broadcasting industry to be a party to that. In its response dated July 20, 2007, to the draft put up by the Ministry in their website in July 2007, the IBF had reiterated its position vide letter dated July 20, 2007.
IBF alleged that the Code / Guidelines had been finalised unilaterally by the Ministry. It further said that only one thing had been conceded – the provision regarding reporting to BRAI by the Content Auditor of any case of her/his being overruled by the Chief Editor had been omitted. All other restrictive and highly bureaucratic provisions – like the need to keep content auditors instead of Standards & Practices Departments available with TV channels globally, detailed provisions to categorise content into eight themes, detailed provisions for subject matter treatment and audio-visual presentation etc. – which are seeking to directly control a creative medium like TV, had all been retained and TV programmes were treated like industrial products.
“Finally, it was really surprising that after detailed discussions with broadcasters during August 2007, first at the Secretary level, and then with the Minister himself, the consensus had veered around to self-regulation as being the preferred way for content regulation, but the Ministry, all of a sudden, chose to simply cast away the document carefully prepared by the IBF instead of sitting together and finding a way out to iron out differences, if any, and arrive at consensus,” the letter added.
“IBF would, therefore, strongly urge that before finalising the Code / Guidelines, the Ministry should hold discussions with the broadcasters and work for mutually agreed guidelines,” the letter added.