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Censoring TV content will be in vain
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The television industry enjoys substantial freedom in the country. The Constitution of India (Article 19 (a)) provides freedom of speech and expression, which gives freedom to what content creators put on television for the viewers. India is the proud possessor of a thriving, flourishing television industry that has struck a chord with audiences across the nation and has taken the business of small screen entertainment to new heights.

However, this freedom comes into question time and again. 'Saas-bahu' sagas and daily soaps that dominated prime time entertainment were accused of being highly regressive in nature. Reality shows that had judges judging the performance of various aspirants came under huge criticism when a contestant lost her voice due to the humiliation she faced at the hands of the judges on national television. Talent shows faced brickbats many a time and had to bear the brunt of critics for showing judges reacting insensitively to contestants.

The moment a controversial or contentious show or programme breaks out on the GECs (general entertainment channels), the debate over censorship sparks off. And it is here where the need for a body to oversee India's burgeoning broadcast media arises.

With the greater awareness of the benefits of freedom of expression, and the technological changes, there is a movement towards industry self-regulation. The Indian case is part of that movement.

Time and again the debate has led to heated arguments on the matter, but till date active censorship on the television industry has not been enforced. Personally, I believe that such a move should be the last resort and should not be imposed on content providers as not only will it curtail the entire creative process of content creation, but will become an unnecessary impediment in television broadcasting. Yes, television like the press, must keep in mind basic ethical norms and perhaps draw them out and ensure adherence to them by all content creators. Self-regulation must be the order of the day -- whether in case of reality television or soaps that depict the age-old sagas or regressive and old stories.

In the debate of censorship versus self-regulation, one must remember that in today's times of cut-throat competition and the race for more TRPs, the television industry still manages to tell unique stories and raise questions pertinent to evil practices and beliefs in our country. The industry still churns out shows with strong messages attached and reaches out to audiences in the country far and wide. Shows in the social drama genres, persuade the audiences to think and challenge what they have grown to so rigidly believe. In my mind, these shows may not have played a role in actively stopping a child marriage or a case of female infanticide. But they have no doubt forced their audiences to give their beliefs a thought and perhaps abandon the same too. Like in any other industry, the television industry has its failings. Yes, regressive stories have featured on channels far too long and certain shows may have impacted audiences negatively.

However, despite these failings, I feel, censorship on the content creators is not the answer. Norms for ethical depiction have to be drawn out and there is no better regulator in the case of the television industry than self-regulation.

For me, the best rebuttal to the cabal that favours censorship lies in the Delhi high court's ruling in two cases of PILs filed by a duo against the show Sach Ka Saamna. The Honourable Court in its judgement threw out two petitions against the game show saying those offended by the show to turn off their TVs. The Honourable Court went on to slam the petition as an example of the "misuse" of public interest litigation and, going a step ahead, also ridiculed the "hypocrisy of various ministers and parliamentarians" over deciding broadcasting law and television content.

To the contention that the show -- in which contestants are asked 'objectionable' questions in front of family and friends -- was against the culture of India, the court said: "Our culture is not so fragile that it will be affected by one TV show. Moreover, nobody in his individual capacity can be allowed to take upon the social order and ask for directions."

I cannot agree more with the Honourable Court. I echo the Court's ruling in the said case and hope that it is decided that Self regulation will be what is enforced. In today's time when the 'push effect' of television due to the presence of a single channel has gotten converted into the 'pull effect', where there exist hundreds of channels to choose from, censorship will only stand as an unnecessary blockade between content and audiences.

Yes, despite all, there should be a stronger self-regulation. The rush for TRPs must not compromise on the quality of content available to viewers. Vowing to adhere to ethical norms of content dissemination is undoubtedly the answer to the debate on censorship versus self regulation. It is the only resolution to the debate in a vibrant and flourishing democracy of which we, the people of India, are the proud citizens of.

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