India’s I&B tries to black out Comedy Central, what next?

Obviously the I&B Ministry pen-pushers either don’t understand English or they have a poor sense of humor.  On  Sunday, those of us  who subscribe to Comedy Central would have noticed that the channel was ‘off the air’. Thankfully, it’s back again, for now.

The reason it was yanked off the air:  some fuddy duddies in the I&B Ministry decided a stand up comic’s speech and gestures were ‘offensive’. 

Now, thankfully, the Delhi High Court has temporarily lifted the ten-day ban on Viacom 18’s Comedy Central channel. Viacom 18 had filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court over the weekend, challenging the ban. In effect from Saturday, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B)  banned the “transmission or re-transmission” of Comedy Central channel for 10 days on any platform across the country.

The Ministry for Information and Broadcasting had enforced a ban on the channel from May 25 for airing two programmes, which the ministry said, ‘offended good taste and decency’, and ‘denigrated women’.

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.”

 

A single judge bench had first upheld the government order, but another bench of the Chief Justice stayed the order. The channel has committed it would not telecast the two contentious programmes in the meantime. It had argued that the ‘right to transmission’ was a fundamental right under Article 19, and the government’s move was ‘anachronistic’ and against liberal democracy. The court has asked the government to respond by August 2.

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 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 apologized, 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. Seems like some people have forgotten the hip thrusts and suggestive dances passed by the Indian Censor Board for the Hindi screen in the 70’s , 80’s and 90’s.  Selective Amnesia.

Most reactions on social media saw the government’s move as “extreme and draconian.”

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Posted by on May 30, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,India,MEDIA,Television. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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