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Govt toys with TV watchdog

New Delhi, March 14: The Centre is mulling the creation of a regulatory body to monitor television content as too much violence and vulgarity are being aired on private channels, I&B minister S. Jaipal Reddy said today.

There has been rising public concern about the increasing instances of violence and obscenity beamed these days.

While films have the censor board to answer to, television, a relatively new medium in the country, comes under no such regulatory authority.

This has resulted in some channels offering programmes with heavy doses of violence and vulgarity to gain popularity.

However, the middle class response, especially those of parents, teachers and social workers, has been against such displays.

The issue came up during question hour in the Rajya Sabha when several members, including C. Ramachandraiah, Jaya Bachchan, Sushma Swaraj, Ram Jethmalani and Ravi Shankar Prasad, questioned Reddy on possible censorship for television.

Reddy made it clear that while the Centre would not bring in censorship for television, his ministry was considering a regulatory authority to deal with all these issues. The bill, though, is yet to take final shape.

The government seems to have been aware that middle-class viewers have been worried about the effect violence and sex would have on children, who form a sizeable chunk of TV viewership.

The ministry, therefore, had arranged a round-table of stake holders, including channels, media heads, cable operator federations, NGOs, educationists and women and consumer organisations, to find a solution to the problem of content regulation.

The meeting yielded several suggestions, but all were against censorship, preferring self-regulation till a regulatory body is in place.

Several media advocacy groups suggested that remixes of film songs, sometimes accompanied by lewd dancing, must not be shown during prime time.

The timings of adult shows should be shifted to late at night.

The I&B minister said the government had no definite view yet on whether there would be one 'grand super regulator' or separate ones. 'We are considering this aspect' he said, adding the violation of the law 'will be visited with some kind of punishment'.

Reddy said action would also be considered against channels airing obscene programmes.

He said the government had taken notice of some 'porn stuff' being shown in the garb of sting operations on some private channels and the ministry was considering taking steps.

He said there was also an advertisement code that banned showing children in any kind of obscene scenes.

Reddy also told the House that in print and electronic media, FDI inflows received by the government between January 2000 and December 2004 in the telecommunications sector was Rs 540.89 crore.

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