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Worrying for OTT censorship: govt acted on 106 TV complaints in last three years

The government acted on 106 complaints on television content in the last three years, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting said in Parliament on Friday. This is a worrying signal for OTT streaming services, which are now under a nearly identical regulatory mechanism to the one in place for TV. Television content is largely regulated by the supposedly self-regulatory Broadcast Content Complaints Committee, but above the BCCC there is a government inter-ministerial committee, which is what acted 106 times over the last three years. Such an inter-ministerial committee is also going to be created for OTT streaming services in the coming weeks, portending similar censorship for streaming platforms.

The government was responding to a query by BJP MPs Raksha Khadse and Manoj Kotak. “During the last three years, Government has taken action for violation of Programme Code by way of issue of advisory, warning, apology scrolls and off-air order in respect of 106 cases,” the Ministry said in its response.

Streaming platforms will be creating a self-regulatory body, but complaints outside of this system, and above it, may continue to create headaches for the industry. Just this month, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights acted on complaints from right wing Twitter handles that claimed to be upset by the portrayal of a minor engaging in substance abuse in a party in the Netflix show Bombay Begums. While Netflix stood its ground and did not remove the show, the child rights body has referred the case to Mumbai Police, asking the commissioner to act to get the show taken down.

Full question and answer

SHRIMATI RAKSHA NIKHIL KHADSE:
SHRI MANOJ KOTAK:

Will the Minister of INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING be pleased to state:-

(a) the details of the Rules and Codes applicable to programmes and advertisements broadcast/telecast on Indian television;

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(b) the steps taken by the Government for violation of the said Rules and Codes by the TV channels along with the conditions on which the Government is empowered to put restrictions on them; and

(c) the details of the action taken by the Government against the programmes based on vulgarity and violence during the last three years?

ANSWER

MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE; MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING; AND MINISTER OF HEAVY INDUSTRIES AND PUBLIC ENTERPRISES
(SHRI PRAKASH JAVADEKAR)

(a): All programmes and advertisements telecast on TV channels are required to adhere to the Programme Code and Advertising Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Rules framed thereunder.

Section 20 of the abovementioned Act empowers the Central Government to regulate or prohibit, transmission or re-transmission of any programme on a TV channel which is not in conformity with the Programme Code or the Advertising Code or in public interest.
Section 19 of the abovementioned Act empowers an authorized officer to prohibit transmission or re-transmission of any programme or channel which is not in conformity with the prescribed Programme Code and the Advertising Code or if the programme is likely to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, linguistic or regional groups or castes or communities or which is likely to disturb the public tranquility.

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(b) to (c): The Government has constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) under the chairmanship of Additional Secretary (I&B) with representatives from Ministries/ Departments of Consumer Affairs, Home Affairs, Law & Justice, Women & Child Development, Health & Family Welfare, External Affairs, Defence and a member from Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to take cognizance suo-moto or look into specific complaints regarding violation of the Programme Code and Advertising Code and make appropriate recommendation for further action by the Government. During the last three years, Government has taken action for violation of Programme Code by way of issue of advisory, warning, apology scrolls and off-air order in respect of 106 cases.

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