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Sushma’s soldiers to police small screen

New Delhi, Dec. 18: The Centre is set to institutionalise policing of television channels. Information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj today said a Broadcasting Regulatory Authority would be formed shortly.

Swaraj told members of the consultative committee of Parliament attached to the ministry that the authority would be set up before the Communications Convergence Bill is passed. The Bill envisages setting up of a bureau to monitor content. It is now pending with a parliamentary committee. She said content monitoring of television channels cannot be delayed.

Presiding over the meeting of the committee, the minister said the broadcasting Bill that was pending was not being pursued because the Communications Convergence Bill was addressing its concerns. However, she said, after members expressed concern over television content, the regulation was necessary.

A ministry release said the committee members unanimously supported the creation of the Broadcasting Regulatory Authority. It said the members felt this was necessary “to address the concerns of public order and decency, preservation of cultural diversity, prevention of excessive depiction of sex and violence, national security, integrity and sovereignty of the country and protection of children from undesirable programmes and advertisements”.

The Communications Convergence Bill also envisages setting up of a bureau for content regulation. The members felt that in case of a delay in finalising the Bill, the government should move ahead towards regulating content because “programmes on various television channels were becoming increasingly unwholesome”, the release said.

Committee member Saroj Dubey said: “Women are projected in a very bad light through some serials and ads on some channels.”

Vijay Darda said the authority should have powers to punish defaulters and should not be like the Press Council of India, which is perceived to be toothless. Kartar Singh Duggal said the authority should be set up without waiting for the passing of the Communications Convergence Bill.

Script-writers, artists, producers, broadcasters, advertisers and viewers have to be made aware of their obligations. E. M. Sudarsana Natchiappan said the “glorification of drinking, smoking, sex, violence and degraded values must not be allowed to be carried on.” Abdul Rashid Shaheen shared the concerns but wanted detailed discussions both in and outside the Parliament. Others who wanted immediate action were C. Narayana Reddy, G. Sukhender Reddy, D. Ramanaidu, Ram Naresh Tripathi, Lalhmingliana and Ajay Maroo.

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