Violations of Programme Code and Advertising Code by TV channels made public by EMMC
Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) was established in 2008 as sub-ordinate office under Ministry of I&B with the exclusive task of monitoring content of private satellite TV channels for violations of Programme Code and Advertising Code. It is now monitoring about 300 channels on a random basis and reporting violations to the Ministry. However, the EMMC had not been making such violations public thereby avoiding public scrutiny, and even the basic information regarding violations by various TV channels has never come up before the citizens. Not many people know of the existence of such an organisation. For you tube video, please CLICK HERE
Based on a complaint by 'Media Watch-India' (MWI), the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) to publish the details of violations of Programme and Advertising Codes by private TV channels. The EMMC implemented this order a few days back which revealed mind-blowing numbers of content violations by TV channels.
In 2012, a request was made under the RTI act to disclose and publish the details of violations by various private TV channels on EMMC website in terms of section 4 of RTI Act. However, the application was rejected without citing any reason. In 2013, a complaint was filed with CIC against EMMC's deliberate hiding of details of violations from public domain. The CIC heard the matter through Video conference and observed that the demand of the complainant to publish the information regarding violations of the codes appears to be a reasonable demand. Under its powers under Section 19(8) (a) (iii), the CIC directed the PIO to ensure that the block figures of the violations report along with the major categories be placed on the website of the EMMC. The CIC order is available at the link at the end of the article. Pursuant to this order, EMMC now published statistics of violations on its website which are available here.
The statistics revealed by EMMC disclose following startling figures:
1. Hundreds of violations were reported each month with respect to screening of films, for example, non-display of Censor certificate before screening of films, non-indication of Censor rating as part of film promos which are otherwise cognizable and non-bailable offences under section 7(1) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to subsection (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9: of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
2. Violations on account of 'vulgarity/obscenity' and 'excessive violence' top in the category-wise analysis of violations.
(i) As far as violations regarding advertisements are concerned, during the financial year 2014-15 alone, a whopping number of 5566 violations were reported of rule 7(10) of Cable Networks Rules, 1994. These relate to the distracting 'part-screen' and 'scrolling' ads interfering with the programme and 'paid promotional programmes' telecast in the garb of news/interviews. Rule 7(10) reads thus: "All advertisement should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme viz., use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme."
(ii) 2965 instances of surrogate advisements of liquor/tobacco products were reported in the same period.
(iii) 1245 instances of misleading advertisements were reported, i.e., superstitious and deceptive ads of kavachas, yantras, medicines, creams etc. claiming to posses miraculous powers which are otherwise serious offences under Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1955.
While these numbers are based on random monitoring of about 1/3rd of total channels in the country, one can imagine the actual number of violations by all channels in the country.
Edara Gopi Chand, Vice-President of MWI said: "This is a big leap forward in enhancing transparency and accountability in the otherwise 'hidden' regime of broadcast regulation in India.However, it is only a partial success. Mere publishing of statistical figures is meaningless unless the names of the violating channels and nature/gravity of each violation are revealed. The next big question that arises is what the Government is doing about these violations. It is an open secret that the Ministry of I&B is simply sitting on the reports without any action. It is giving occasional 'advisories' to which no channel pays heed. In rarest of the rare cases, when the penal powers are enforced, i.e., prohibiting telecast of the offending channel for few days, the broadcasters are running to High Courts crying 'government regulation' of media."
He further added: "Airwaves are 'public property' as held by the Apex Court. As such, the Public have the basic right to know how and by which entities such 'airwaves' are being misused. EMMC's deliberate refusal to disclose details of violations so far has to be seen in the context of overall scheme of 'media-appeasing' tactics and 'don't-care-for-the-audience' attitude of successive governments."
MWI's legal advisor, Gaurav Kumar Bansal said: "EMMC can easily upload violation reports on its website which discloses the names of offending channels and nature/summary of each violation. But, it is trying its best not to do so to shield the erring broadcasters from public scrutiny. MWI is going for review of the CIC order very soon."
On a separate complaint filed by MWI, CIC passed another significant order directing Censor Board to publish the following key information on its website (www.cbfcindia.gov.in) by June 1st:
1. Minutes of the Statutory Meeting of the Board,
2. Annual Statutory Reports submitted to the Central Govt. by the board,
3. Statutory register with details of all certified films maintained as per rule 39 of Cinematograph (Certification) Rules 1983,
4. Norms & guidelines issued by GoI to CBFC for selecting/recommending advisory penal members,
5. Sample formats of different certificates being issued by CBFC,
6. Details of banned films etc.
The order of CIC w.r.t CBFC can be accessed here.
(Based on a press release by Edara Gopi Chand, Vice-President of MWI)
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2015/CIC/1479
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission