New Delhi: The Modi government has allowed Sudarshan News, a Hindi channel frequently under the scanner for communal content, to air a controversial programme that seeks to “expose” a “conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims” into the Indian civil services.
The programme is part of a series called Bindas Bol, hosted by Sudarshan News editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke. In an order issued Thursday, the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry said it cannot pre-censor a programme, or stop it from being telecast.
“If only, when the programme is telecast and any violation of law is found, action can be taken,” the order states.
Indian broadcast rules do not permit pre-censorship of TV programmes and advertisements — that is banning them before they are aired — and only films and film trailers are pre-certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The Sudarshan News episode came to light after the channel released a promotional trailer, terming the alleged conspiracy “bureaucracy jihad” and “UPSC jihad”. The trailer at once elicited widespread criticism, with many alleging the content amounted to hate speech.
The episode was also challenged in the Delhi High Court, which stayed its telecast. When Sudarshan News approached the court to vacate the stay, the latter asked the I&B Ministry to take a call.
In its order, the ministry called the controversy surrounding the show a “peculiar situation” where the programme has not yet been telecast but has drawn complaints on the basis of its promo.
The ministry said it had sent a notice to Sudarshan News seeking its comments on whether the show adheres to the programme code. The channel replied in a written submission that it is not violative of the law and action can be taken against it if the show turns out to be, the ministry added.
“…Sudarshan TV is hereby directed to ensure that the programme proposed to be telecast does not violate any of the programme codes,” the ministry said in its order.
“If any violation of the programme code is found, action as per law will be taken.”
What the rules say
Section 20 of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, states that the government can regulate or prohibit the transmission or retransmission of any programme that it feels is not in conformity with the Programme and Advertising Code, which oversees television content in India. However, since there is no body to pre-certify content for TV, potentially problematic programmes only come to notice once they have been aired.
The Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC), under the I&B Ministry, monitors the content telecast on private TV channels to check if they adhere to the Programme and Advertising Code.
Specific complaints on code violations are looked into by an inter-ministerial committee (IMC).
Additionally, it is also the responsibility of the channel to ensure its programmes are not violative of the programme code, laid down in Rule 6 of the Cable TV Network Rules.
Sub-section ‘c’ of Rule 6 specifically mentions that programmes that contain attacks on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes should not be carried in the cable service.