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NCPCR issues new draft guidelines to ensure child safety in the entertainment and advertising industry

After releasing the first set of guidelines around children’s safety in 2011, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has finally released a new set of draft guidelines with a widened scope of horizon expanding to OTT platforms and social media.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has issued draft guidelines for ensuring child protection and safe employment within the entertainment industry by regulating their participation in films, TV, reality shows, OTT platforms, news and social media platforms.

This new draft will be a substitute to the earlier guidelines of 2011 which includes provisions from new laws and amendments such as Juvenile Justice Act, 2015; Child Labour Amendment Act, 2016; Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012; and the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.

The new draft guidelines come as a result of the alleged exploitation of innocence that child actors were subjected to in the entertainment industry. It is important to ensure a healthy work environment for them with minimal physical and psychological stress. In the absence of any monitoring mechanism, the children in the industry are at grave risk of exploitation because they lack the legal right to the earnings they generate, or safe working experience and adequate protections via labour laws, etc.

NPCPR’s Regulatory Guidelines for Child Participation in the Entertainment Industry fall under Section 13 of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 and must not be violative of the principles of dignity and worth, participation, best interest, family responsibility, safety, non-stigmatising semantics, non-waiver of rights, natural justice and equality and non-discrimination.

According to the new regulatory guidelines, producers must get an approval from the District Magistrate prior to involving him in any shoot along with ensuring that such content will be aired with due disclaimer stating that the child artist engaged in the content hasn't been subjected to abuse or exploitation. The permit will only be valid for a duration of six months.

The guidelines also state that no child should be cast in a role or situation that is inappropriate and may distress him or put him in embarrassing situations considering his age, maturity, emotional development and sensitivity.

Also, no child should be exposed to ridicule, insult or discouragement, harsh comments or any behaviour that could affect his/her emotional health. No child should be shown consuming alcohol, smoking or using any other substance or shown to be indulging in any sort of antisocial activity and delinquent behaviour.

The new draft guidelines also require for a parent or legal guardian to be present at all times and all travel arrangements should be made for both individuals. Also, one responsible person shall be appointed by the producer for a maximum of five children for the production or event, so as to ensure the protection, care and best interest of the child.

Additionally, production units will also need to be child-friendly and have staff training on how to interact with children. The producer will be required to supply enough and wholesome food, as well as leisure activities and sleeping accommodations. Also, production facilities must ensure that the workplace is secure and that the children aren't exposed to hazardous lighting, irritating chemicals, or tainted cosmetics.

A break should be given to children every three hours while they are working, and no youngster should be required to work for more than six hours in a day as they cannot be forced to labour from 7 pm to 8 am. Furthermore, the child cannot work for more than 27 consecutive days.

The guidelines further state that it is the producer's responsibility to guarantee that children's education is not impacted by their participation in shootings and that such children should be given private tutors to help them catch up on their missed classes.

A minimum of 20% of the child's earnings from the production or event must be promptly put into a fixed deposit account in the child's name at a nationalised bank to be credited upon reaching adulthood.

Facilities must be suitable for each child's age and needs, and they must not be forced to share changing areas or rooms with adults, especially those of the opposite sex. Adding to this, the guidelines further mention that no child should participate in any nudity-related activities and that programmes based on abused children should be handled delicately.

Keeping in mind the sensitivity around revelation of identity of child in sensitive issues like rape, other sexual offences, trafficking, drug abuse, elopement, organised crime, and child soldiers, the new guidelines require Media and production firms to ensure that a lifelong anonymity is maintained.

In case of violation of any of the guidelines mentioned in the NCPCR Draft guidelines, the person concerned shall be duly booked under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2015, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act of 2012, and the Child and Adolescent Labor Act of 1986.

If it is determined that the producer, parents, or legal guardians have violated the guidelines' prohibitions on child labour, they could face imprisonment for a period of "not less than six months but which may extend to two years, or with a fine which shall not be less than Rs 20,000 but which may extend to Rs 50,000, or with both.”

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