This article isn’t about NDTV’s one day ‘prohibition of transmission’ order from the Central Government. It is a quick look at the some of the more recent ‘bans’ on TV channels in the last few years.
Contrary to what NDTV would like you to believe, they aren’t the first TV channel in the history of everything that this has ever happened to. Cable television networks do get into trouble every now and then for violating the ‘Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995’. This Act is one that all cable television networks promise to abide by, in order to get permission to run television channels in India. Somewhat like the terms of a contract, in order to get permission to broadcast, they specifically agree to statements such as the following:
“Where the Central Government thinks it necessary or expedient so to do in public interest, it may prohibit the operation of any cable television network in such areas as it may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf.
Where the Central Government thinks it necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of the—
(i) sovereignty or integrity of India; or
(ii) security of India; or
(iii) friendly relations of India with any foreign State; or
(iv) public order, decency or morality,
it may, by order, regulate or prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of any channel or programme.”
(You can read the entire act in the pdf here: http://lawmin.nic.in/ld/P-ACT/1995/The%20Cable%20Television%20Networks%20(Regulation)%20Act,%201995.pdf)
Now, the last point in that statement, i.e. ‘public order, decency or morality’ is undoubtedly a grey area. Who decides what is decent or moral? This could so easily be used to curb anyone that one dislikes or to engage in some colonial-style propaganda-pushing, right?
Well, here is a fun fact. That is exactly what often happened in 2013 and earlier!
Look at this tweet with a list of TV channels that got banned for 5, 7 and 10 days even, for broadcasting things that someone in the government decided was ‘immoral’!
And for those portraying the BJP govt as fascist & dictatorial for taking action against violation of broadcasting code, here goes….. pic.twitter.com/nuXQXpHuwc
— Priti Gandhi (@MrsGandhi) November 4, 2016
You can also find all these notices on the ministry’s website www.mib.nic.in if you search with the keyword ‘transmission’.
Here is what this writer found:
Al Jazeera for example, got banned for 5 days in 2015 for repeatedly using the wrong map of India, for programs transmitted in India! They were clearly either pushing a foreign power’s political agenda (so, a problem with respect to points (i) & (ii) above) or were having an acute case of the “if you are too open-minded, your brain will fall out” syndrome.
Comedy Central (!) got banned in 2013 for 10 days (10 entire days!) for airing a comedy show that used offensive language and had jokes that were possibly derogatory to women. Despite their letter of apology explaining that it was an unintentional mistake, they had to go off the air. You can read the notice with full details of all the drama, here http://mib.nic.in/WriteReadData/documents/ComedyCentral.pdf
This violated the fairly grey, point (iv) above and is definitely within the realm of violation of one’s right to freedom of speech! There was however, no significant outraging, calling the UPA government fascist and none of the screaming and beating of chests for the death of free-speech that is on display currently.
Reading through the notices, one also sees a significant shift in mid-2014 from banning TV channels for perceived ‘immorality’, to holding them accountable for promoting violence or breaching security protocols. The TV channels also have to go off-air for much shorter times under the NDA government which shows that the focus is on getting the message across and not on vindictively trying to destroy the channel itself!
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is finally acknowledging that we are all responsible adults here who don’t need a nanny state. NDTV should grow up too!
— I.B.T.L (@IndiaBTL) November 6, 2016