In effect from Saturday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has banned the “transmission or retransmission” of Comedy Central channel for 10 days on any platform across the country.
The government has held that two shows on the channel, Comedy Central Presents and Popcorn, telecast in July and August 2012 respectively, violated the programming code of the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1995.
An order signed by Neeti Sarkar, a director in the Ministry, said a show-cause was issued to the channel last July on grounds that it telecast a show — in which a man performed stand-up comedy with “suggestive gestures” — that “offends good taste or decency,” was “obscene” and “denigrates women.”
The channel, the order said, “apologised for inadvertently airing the aforesaid episode” due to “unintentional genuine error,” and undertook not to repeat it.
The order said that in early August another show was screened, based on “playing pranks in public” on the lines of a candid camera, where a person pretended to engage in sexual activity with dummy legs, which “amazed,” “surprised,” “amused” onlookers.
The Ministry held the visuals violated several programming code provisions and issued a second show-cause.
The channel submitted that it catered to a “niche audience”; produced its programme mainly out of India and had an edit process but “inadvertently, edits were missed to be carried out before its telecast.” It apologised, saying it was a “genuine operational mishap.”
An inter-ministerial committee mandated to look at violations of programming code, however, found it “offensive” and recommended that the channel’s transmission be prohibited for 10 days.
Most reactions on social media saw the government’s move as “extreme and draconian.” However, I&B Ministry secretary Uday Kumar Verma told The Hindu: “We act only after giving several warnings and advisories. First impingement doesn’t invite this kind of thing, but if you are in continuous violation of the programming code, the Ministry is constrained to take action. This is not causing curtailment of freedom of expression in any way.”