Indian television getting too hot to handle

May 28, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Comedy Central was back on Indian television screens on Tuesday, getting what appeared to be a court-ordered reprieve four days after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting banned the network for 10 days for showing content deemed unsuitable for Indian audiences.

“Hey guys! We’re happy to announce that #CC is back on your TV screens! Thanks for your support-we appreciate it! Keep on Laughing It Off :)” Comedy Central India said in a tweet on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the channel, owned by Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd, did not offer more details.

This is not the first time the government has censored television viewing in India. The TV premiere of “The Dirty Picture”, a critically acclaimed film inspired by the life of 1980’s soft-core pornography film star Silk Smitha, was stalled last year, despite the film’s makers agreeing to 59 cuts to try to meet the government’s standards for television.

In a country with an estimated 146 million TV-viewing households, the government reserves the right to sanitise programming, usually because of its mission to make sure that nobody offends multiple ethnic and religious groups as well as their societal sensibilities. Fashion TV was also banned for 10 days in March for showing skimpily clad models.

The Wall Street Journal reported that two programs had put Comedy Central in the dock – a French prank show that featured simulated sex with a dummy and a stand-up comedy act.

And there’s the other big reason these days to censor content. The government in its own well-intentioned way is trying to avoid allowing millions of people to watch programming that its civil servants worry might inflame lust, particularly at a time when the world is expanding its image of India to include men running amok and raping women right and left. That’s like blaming lingerie-clad mannequins for sex crimes.

“This goes against the very tenets of natural justice,” said Paritosh Joshi, a member of the Consumer Complaints Council of the Advertising Standards Council of India, a group that supports self-regulation for the content that advertisers produce. “This is a case where the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is the judge, jury and policeman.”

If TV censorship improved attitudes towards women in India, this might be a small price to pay. But blaming television seems like a stretch.

(Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay )

One comment

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How I wish they work on other urgent issues than moral policing!

Posted by Woman21 | Report as abusive