I&B Ministry ruling: Insaaf or Big bias?

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Will the Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to push TV shows like ‘Bigg Boss 4′ and ‘Rakhi Ka Insaaf’ to 11pm slot make any difference? Industry reacts…

With the growing vulgarity and sensationalism in the prime time slot on small screen, The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has served a notice to television shows Bigg Boss 4 and Rakhi Ka Insaaf to be aired between 11pm and 5am as they are not suitable for viewing by children. The reality shows were being aired on prime time so far. Also they have been asked to carry a disclaimer that the shows are not suitable for viewing by children. News channels, too, have been instructed not to carry any footage from the shows. But will the change of timings be of any help?

Filmmaker Subhash Ghai says, “I don’t see TV much except news and History or cartoon channels. But I know TV does influence children a lot in their growth. If programs are a negative influence, they can affect adversely on kids and innocent people so they may be shown in separate time slots. Also we need to educate kids on how to appreciate media.”

However ex-Bigg Boss contestants like Sambhavna Seth and Debojit Saha are of the opinion that the time change will make no difference. “Kyunki jisko dekhna hai woh 11 baje bhi dekhega. In fact now children will have better access to such shows since they will switch on TV at 11pm after their parents have slept. If someone finds any show offensive or unsuitable, they always have the option to change channels. If at all the ministry wants to change anything, they can tone down the vulgarity shown on channels”, says Sambhavna. Debojit adds, “If the 11 pm slot gives the channel a leeway in continuing the degree of vulgarity, audiences would prefer to watch more sensationalism at late nights. It’s important to tone down the vulgarity than to change the timelines.”

Model-actress Sushma Reddy believes it’s not a bad idea to slot shows as per their content. “I have always been in favour of free speech and parental control of what their kids are or are not watching on the Television and the net. But in India, where families more often than not watch TV together, it might not be a bad idea to give late night slots to programs that would have received an ‘A’ or a ‘PG’ rating if they were movies. Channel wars will generate a competition to sensationalize programs, at the expense of family viewing”. Mahie Gill, known for her bold portrayal of Paro in Dev.D welcomes the decision saying, “I hope that quality would improve on television and also viewers would practice discretion while deciding what serials to watch as a family”.

TV actor and Rakhi Sawant’s ex-flame, Abhishek Avasthi also favours the ruling on the grounds that actors are accountable to the society at large. “The masses imitate you; look up to you and so Indian shows should be suitable for family viewing. I was busy shooting so didn’t see Rakhi’s show but you cannot use language which is disgraceful on national TV. A middle-class man values his self-respect more than anything else. You cannot insult him on national TV. Even Bigg Boss has loads of obscenities in it. Even if given a chance I will never enter Bigg Boss house as I value my respect more than anything else”.

But for every Abhishek Avasthi you have a Rupali Ganguly who feels the ruling is really unfair. Bigg Boss ex-contestant and TV actress Rupali says, “There are so many English shows that show far more intimacy and obscenities than you see on these shows. I agree Veena Malik and her orgasmic massages to Ashmit are suitable for 11pm viewing but then it’s a question of choice. There are people who choose not to see the show at all. Pushing it post 11 will do no good as I will continue watching it even at 11″.

Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam, the first politician to appear in Bigg Boss welcomes this decision by the ministry on the doctrine that something is better than nothing. “But then what is obscene is obscene”, says Nirupam. “It’s important to put some sort of mechanism to monitor content on television and not simply change timelines. The privatization of channels has set a race of TRPs which is no cut-throat that the channels will go down to any level. Changing timelines is fine but it is mandatory to set a borderline for television else the reality of reality shows will be very bitter”.

Marketing and management guru Suhel Seth has a caustic take on the ruling. “The Bigg Boss timings had to shift since Pamela Anderson is here and our MPs only finish making money by about 11pm. Why should they not watch? With 5 am slots, now Dolly Bindra and Pamela Anderson will compete with Aastha and Gayatri Mantra or what?”

The reactions are diverse even from everyday audience. Housewife Meena Patel was waiting for the government to intervene in this situation. “I want that show to be taken off air! It is obscene. I have my kids watching TV during the 9 pm slot and it’s disgusting. Indian values are different. Shows like Bigg Boss are not made for our culture. They should be banned in fact.” However Management Student Sonakshi Sharma has a very technical take which makes the ruling invalid to an extent. “Today homes are equipped with DTH service providers like Tata Sky, Dish TV and others with which one can record the show and watch it whatever time and how many ever times they want to. I don’t think changing the time slot will help the Ministry’s agenda”.

All in all the response to the ruling is pretty mixed. After changing the time slot, now it’s important to see whether the ministry goes a step ahead and starts monitoring content like some would want or retract and get back the shows in prime time on public demand. Boss the debate is going to get Big!

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This post was submitted by Remya.

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