Religion, not sex, a touchy issue among TV viewers

October 17, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:48 am IST

In its second report since 2012, the BCCC said sex, obscenity and nudity now attract only eight per cent of the complaints and a large number of these were forwarded by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The BCCC addresses complaints from 350 entertainment channels.

Viewers’ objections under the ‘religion and community’ category, the BCCC found, varied from the treatment meted out to epics like the Mahabharata or when serials portrayed gods. “Viewers, mainly religious groups, object to slight departures in treatment of the epics and Gods and send in their complaints,” a BCCC official said, adding that the self-regulatory body erred on the side of creativity. At the same time, the official pointed out that a large number of viewers, mostly women, have also complained about the portrayal of women as serial schemers.

The seven categories under which complaints are received are ‘crime and violence’, ‘sex, obscenity and nudity’, ‘horror and occult’, ‘drugs, smoking and tobacco, solvents and alcohol’, ‘religion and community’, ‘harm and offence’ and ‘general restrictions’.

For the BCCC, it is not uncommon to receive 20-25 complaints every day. “The body is an alternative to interference from the government,” says its chairperson Mukul Mudgal, the former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The BCCC examines 2-3 complaints of specific nature daily and depending on the complaint and examination of contents, the broadcaster is given a chance to explain its position when the council members meet once a month. In the hierarchy of punishments, a fine of up to Rs. 30 lakh and an apology repeated five times in the course of a single programme is the rarest of rare punishment. The maximum fine levied so far has been Rs.7.5 lakh.

Often, on receipt of a complaint and after examination, channels are asked to shift their content, especially if the programmes are found unsuitable for general viewing, to a later time slot, or asked to change the content or even drop them from future telecast.

Of the complaints received from the 350-odd channels, the BCCC found that in language channels, the maximum complaints have come from viewers of Tamil channels, mostly on the portrayal of women, followed closely by Telugu and Kannada channels.

The council’s achievement till date has been the 100 per cent compliance with its directives, sufficient proof that self-regulation works, says Mr. Mudgal, who heads the committee comprising 14 members, of whom four are broadcasters. Its decisions are made by a majority of members.

Mr. Mudgal spends half-an-hour surfing general entertainment channels when time permits. Unlike the close watch on news channels, where transgressions called forth show-cause notices, the entertainment channels enjoy an autonomous run.

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