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BCCC considering graded financial penalty for serious violations

Broadcasting Content Complaints Council has submitted a report to MIB along with its recommendations

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | January 24, 2013

Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), the independent self-regulatory body for non-news general entertainment channels set up by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) in June 2011, has reiterated its commitment towards self-regulation to improve the quality of content and stricter compliance of its guidelines by member channels. Apart from the existing provision of revoking the licence of a broadcaster after repeated violations of the Programme and Advertising Code five times or more, the council is considering graded financial penalty for serious violations by channels.

The council held a media conference in New Delhi yesterday, which was addressed by BCCC Chairperson, Justice (Retd) AP Shah, IBF President Man Jit Singh, BCCC members Shabana Azmi and Bhaskar Ghose, and IBF Vice-President Rajat Sharma. BCCC broadcast members, Ashok Nambissan (MSM Media) and Sujit Jain (Viacom 18), were also present.

Justice Shah said, “The BCCC has taken a serious note of complaints relating to women and children and issued advisories in this regard. Broadcasters should strictly avoid showing children below the age of 12 dancing to item numbers. The treatment of children during the course of the programme is also important. Stereotyping of women should be discouraged in TV programmes.”

“We have made certain suggestions and recommendations to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting with regard to Clause 10.2 of the Uplinking Guidelines. We feel a provision for graded financial penalty can be introduced for serious violations by channels,” Justice Shah added. The BCCC has submitted a report to the MIB in this respect on January 22, 2013.

Summary of BCCC’s recommendations:

  1. There should be a gradation of “violations”, ranging from mild to severe;
  2. As a general practice, sanctions imposed should be in the nature of fines and directions for correction;
  3. Fines should be substantial in case of serious violations, and not merely token fines;
  4. Sanctions under Clause 8.2 and Clause 10.2 that attract the consequences of these provisions should be imposed only in cases of repeated and extremely severe violations;
  5. Factors that should be accounted for to determine the severity of the violation include:

-          Degree of breach: Extent and the severity of the breach

-          Duration of breach: Time period for which the breach was alive

-          Harm caused as a result of the breach: Whether, and to what extent, has any injury been caused to the objectives of the restrictions

-          Reversibility of the harm: whether the harm can be corrected through any measures

-          Measures taken for correction of the breach: Whether the broadcaster has taken any measures for the correction of the breach

  1. Suspension and revocation of licence must be resorted to in exceptional circumstances, and only in cases of repeated and extremely severe violations
  2. Additionally, while passing the relevant order of sanction, the deciding authority in “effective consultation” with the self-regulatory bodies, should also factor if the self-regulatory bodies have already taken cognizance of the violation and whether any penalty has been imposed thereby, before arriving at their decision;
  3. The decision of the relevant Adjudicatory Body pertaining to the imposition of fines, issuance of directions, suspension and/or revocation of the license, should be made appealable;
  4. An independent Adjudicatory Body should be formulated to adjudicate on violations that take place through the license period;
  5. This Adjudicatory Body should decide on whether there is a violation, and if one is found, what consequence it warrants;
  6. The decision of the Adjudicatory Body should be in consultation with the relevant self-regulatory bodies on a case-to-case basis, to determine the degree and extent of the violation by the broadcaster;
  7. While undertaking the effective consultation with the self-regulatory bodies, it must be noted that general content related violations (including promotions) in relation to entertainment channels is within the jurisdiction of the BCCC; general content related violations (including promotions) in relation to news channels is within the jurisdiction of the NBSA; and purely commercial advertising related violations is within the jurisdiction of the ASCI;
  8. The provisions in Clauses 8.2 and 10.2 should be made applicable only for violations that occur in the future, and not in respect of licenses that are already granted or coming up for renewal at a future date.

IBF President Man Jit Singh said, “Self-regulation is the most appropriate way to handle content on television. The BCCC is a truly independent council that looks into complaints from all over the country. The broadcasters take all recommendations, directions and advisories of the BCCC very seriously and will continue to support the council’s efforts.”

Putting forward the IBF perspective, Singh added, “There has been 100 per cent compliance by all IBF members with respect to every advisory issued by BCCC and we will continue to support the commission.”

BCCC member Shabana Azmi said, “Freedom of speech and expression, especially artistic freedom, is very important and a democratic right. This freedom, however, comes with responsibility, and this is where BCCC plays an important role.”

“At BCCC, we hear the channels when serious complaints come before us. We are happy to say that there has been full compliance of the BCCC’s directives by the member channels,” Azmi added.

IBF Vice-President Rajat Sharma said, “We acknowledge that the compliance of BCCC advisories has resulted in improvement of quality of content and the process will continue with the support from all member channels.”

BCCC member Bhaskar Ghose said, “At present, debates relating to content and similar issues cater only to a defined audience. We feel its scope needs to be expanded with fruitful participation of a much wider audience in society.”

The BCCC came into being after consultations between the IBF and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to implement ‘Self-Regulatory Guidelines and Complaints Redressal Mechanism’ for all non-news channels, including general entertainment, children and special interest channels.

There has been a rapid increase in the number of complaints being handled by BCCC in view of the various measures implemented by the IBF’s member channels and the increased awareness amongst the Indian television audience. Answering media queries, Shah said there was a need to publicise the guidelines on member channels.

Till November 30, 2012, BCCC received 8,628 complaints and suggestions, including 1,072 ‘Specific Complaints’, and it has disposed of an overwhelming number of these to the satisfaction of complainants.

So far, the BCCC has held 21 meetings. Each of these has yielded encouraging results in the quest to uphold and strengthen high standards of self-regulation based on the principles of autonomy, transparency and accountability.

So far, BCCC has issued seven Advisories to channels on different issues:

  1. Advisory on Portrayal of Women in TV programmes (24 January 2012)
  2. Advisory on Depiction of Animals/Wildlife in TV programmes (19 July 2012)
  3. Advisory on Telecast of Award Functions (19 July 2012)
  4. Advisory on Participation of Children in reality shows/programmes (19 July 2012)
  5. Advisory on ‘Sexualisation of Children in TV Programmes’ (24 December 2012)
  6. Advisory on Health & Safety of Children Participating in TV Shows (24 Dec 2012)
  7. Advisory on Comedy Shows (27 December 2012)

The BCCC has decided to hold similar sensitisation sessions with S&P heads of channels in other parts of the country.

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