The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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MPs clamour for telly smut check
- Govt promises bill by budget session

New Delhi, Nov. 28: Indian lawmakers have a serious grudge against the idiot box and they are airing it loud and clear.

They want the government to tame television to stop young India from getting corrupted by the obscenity dished out by foreign and domestic channels.

Responding to the sentiments of a cross-section of MPs in favour of the government wielding the stick, the new information and broadcasting minister, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, told the Rajya Sabha today that a comprehensive legislation could be brought about to regulate programme content on television.

He said the government would have to intervene in the functioning of private channels and consultations would soon be held with the industry.

An inter-ministerial committee is looking into the matter, Das Munshi said, adding that he hoped the legislation would see the light of day by the budget session. The government is also thinking of merging the Indian broadcasting bill and the convergence bill for the legislation.

Congress MP Vijay Darda was the first to raise the issue during question hour today. In no time, it turned into a debate with several members firing questions at the minister.

The complaints were varied. If Darda demanded making the foreign channels accountable, Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) had reservations about the news channels. Yadav took exception to the television coverage of a man who announced he was going to die on a particular day and time.

Congress MP Anand Sharma, too, targeted the news channels, saying their crime shows were in bad taste, while the Samajwadi Party’s Shahid Siddiqui wanted the government to check music videos.

The one point that all agreed on was that many shows on the small screen were obscene. Darda even pointed fingers at Pogo ' a channel catering to children.

The minister told the House that the government was taking such complaints seriously ' while it has banned Ren TV, a Russian channel, action has been taken against 36 channels for beaming objectionable programmes.

Das Munshi said the government had set up an electronic media monitoring centre, which started functioning from April. The minister, however, admitted that the mechanism has proved to be insufficient to track down the content of all programmes.

When CPM member Dipankar Mukherjee raised the question of foreign channels allowing Indian companies to use their brand name, Das Munshi said his office was not aware of this.

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