Regulator asks them to keep in mind the ‘best interest of child’

In the wake of complaints against content on ‘children’s/cartoon channels,’ the Broadcasting Content Complaint Council (BCCC) has advised broadcasters to be ‘more cautious’ in selecting content. The Council, a self-regulatory mechanism for general entertainment non-news channels, wants channels to heed the principle of keeping the ‘best interest of the child.’

The BCCC got complaints that ‘objectionable’ content/theme/visuals/animation was screened on various ‘children’s channels,’ which included foreign cartoon shows and their translated/adapted versions. There were instances of particularly ‘crude translation,’ shots where fathers were seen smoking in front of children; or a young boy was seen engaging in inappropriate behaviour with a girl. These channels also screened films classified as U/A. Promos of programmes meant for mature viewers were also reported to be telecast on ‘children’s channels.’

The broadcasters had argued that since there was no separate classification of channels meant only for children, there could not be additional restraint on telecast of content. But the BCCC felt that some channels consider children to be their primary target viewers, and ‘unsuspecting parents’ allow children easy access to programmes on such channels. The BCCC said, “It does not wish to be a censoring agency, but given the ‘impressionable minds of their target viewers,’ channels needed to be more careful.”

In the past, the BCCC had issued three advisories on issues related to children on television. In July 2012, it asked channels to follow guidelines issued by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights with regard to child participation in serials, reality shows and advertisements. Last December, it expressed concern about ‘sexualisation of children’ on talent and other shows, urging broadcasters to refrain from featuring children below 12 in such shows. It also asked channels to not put any child below 16 in circumstances that may endanger their ‘health, safety and morale.’

Asked whether channels paid heed to the advisories, BCCC secretary-general Ashish Sinha told The Hindu that there was a ‘high degree of compliance.’ They did not receive any complaint about the treatment of children featured during shows in the past year after the cautionary note. The BCCC expressed the hope that there would be a similar response in terms of refining the language, and screening out objectionable content, on cartoon shows in the future.