Channels off air after cable raid - Adult-content crackdown sparks Mumbai blackout

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  • Published 21.08.06

Mumbai, Aug. 21: Cable operators in Mumbai yanked all channels off the air after police raided their hubs and seized decoders of movie channels showing adult content.

The swoops came after Mumbai High Court directed Maharashtra police chief P.S. Pasricha last Wednesday to crack down on cable operators showing adult content on television and file an affidavit on the action taken within a week.

Nine channels — Star Movies, HBO, AXN, Set Max, Zee Studio, Zee Café, Star World, Hallmark and Filmy — were listed as offenders, but all movie channels went off the air after the crackdown on control rooms of key cable operators such as Hathway, InCable, Indus and Siti.

Other entertainment and news channels were expected to function, but late tonight PTI reported that they also have been pulled off air.

Ganesh Naidu, president of the Cable Operators and Distributors Association in Mumbai, said channels will remain off the air till a “firm decision is taken”. He said he was speaking to lawyers.

“The police acted under court directions. We had issued showcauses to channels. The court has now ordered action against cable operators,” said advocate B.A. Mokashe, who appeared on behalf of Mumbai police.

The directive came during the course of hearings on a contempt petition filed by Pratibha Naitthani, a St Xavier’s College professor who spearheaded protests in the past against adult content on the small and big screens.

Naitthani was unavailable for comment, but her lawyer Mukesh Vashi said he welcomed the order.

“Last Wednesday, we had presented the court a list of 143 films with ‘A’ and ‘U/A’ certificates shown on various TV channels in the past three months. Channels like HBO telecast programmes with adult content or innuendoes like Sex and the City without permission from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC),” he added.

“Police commissioner A. N. Roy recently told cable operators about the court order but since they did not pay heed, raids were the only option. We seized the decoders of channels indicted by the court,” said deputy commissioner (social service branch and enforcement) Sanjay Apranti.

“We don’t produce the content for these channels. Why is the police targeting us? They should take action against the broadcasters. Besides, how are we to know what is legally seen as adult and what is not? We can comply with court orders only when we are told which channels are not to be shown,” Naidu said. Channels refused to comment on the court order.

In September 2004, the court had stopped nine channels from beaming adult movies or programmes without prior CBFC nod. That order had also come in response to a plea filed by Naitthani. She had argued that a film rated ‘A’ by the CBFC could not be shown on TV, which has a universal audience. STAR TV, Sony TV, Zee TV, Udaya TV, AXN TV and Surya TV had faced the music then.