Who wants the dirty TV?
Ambika talks of a new law, J&K needs to think differently too
DATELINE BY ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB
China’s ruling Communist Party woke up in October this year to launch an all-out war against obscenity and indecency on Chinese TV. Its concern stemmed from a widespread feeling in the country that its people, especially the young, were losing their ‘moral compass.’ Many Chinese are deeply worried today about the growing materialism, vulgarity and decay of family values in their country.
So come January Ist 2012, China’s television channels will be all different. What will go are the dating shows, lurid programmes on crime and shows “promoting materialism.” Time for crude entertainment shows will be significantly axed.
Provincial channels (provinces in China are equivalent to India’s states) will be allowed to show no more than two entertainment shows between 7.30 pm and 10 pm. No more than 10 talent contests will be permitted nationwide per year, and each must be of a different kind.
The government body which regulates Chinese vast TV industry said it will encourage broadcasters to produce “harmonious and healthy programmes, such as culture and art appreciation, history, geography and astronomy.”
Over to India now.
Last week some members of the Parliament raised the matter of vulgarity on Indian TV in the Lok Sabha. The underlying message looked similar to the Chinese one: the content broadcasters propagate on TV was not in line with the culture and ethos of India.
But this is a rather belated awakening. The problem is that if left entirely to the market, there are no limits to the levels that programme producers will sink to as they attract new audiences and good ratings. Jammu & Kashmir, and its unique culture and ethos, is a victim of the same market frenzy.
To say that all this is an import of western cultures is misleading. Most of the TV content in the western world is generally thoughtfully designed and self-censored. There is an element of moderation and delineation. Even if there is content which goes beyond family viewing, such channels are categorised as such.
India’s case is a story of extremes. It is not only about tacky reality shows with egotistic wannabes. Nor is it only about the formulaic talent contests alone.
Most people will agree that India’s film industry has exceeded all limits. These days it is normal for the film censorship board to OK films in general category even when they are basically adult films. Without that description, such films, their songs sequences and promos etc. flash across almost all TV channels without questioning. Worse, advertisements are in the same league.
This is a great mess. Information and Broadcasting minister, Ambika Soni, said week said that the government may bring in a new law if all parties agree to. Without an agreement it may at best be a toothless ordinance. The basic problem is the films – when your censor board clears a film, you will have little reason to curb its broadcasting on TV.
For J&K it is time to have a different view. If the new law or ordinance fails to curb obscenity on TV, we need to have our own law. Our constitution has ample space for that. The reason for that course is compelling: we are not allowed regional channels, nor are we in a position politically to determine our TV content.
Further, we are a state in a deeply troubled social landscape. People in the state – especially those living in harsh winter conditions, limited mobility and limited unwinding avenues like sports, socializing etc – are particularly vulnerable to TV vulgarity.
Family TV viewing in Kashmir has been a norm because people are used to sit together, especially during evenings. But the content which is aired is totally unfit for family viewing. Many families have more than one TV in their homes to allow for privacy, but such an escape-route has its own pitfalls. It weakens family as a unit, and it creates space for TV viewing for children which could be harmful.
Many families have altogether said goodbye to satellite and cable TV in Kashmir. That is another extreme, because such route results in deprivation of information and knowledge. And susceptibility to the state view of everything.
At this moment, we have a clear agenda for action: our civil society must work on a model bill which could be taken up for public debate and advocacy. We cannot afford to wait.
(The columnist is presently a technical advisor in international development, and based overseas)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 17 Dec 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 17 Dec 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 18 Dec 2011 00:00:00 IST
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