INDIA: AXN banned for 'indecent' programme

Information and Broadcast Ministry takes action against 'tasteless' TV

Times of India
Friday, January 19, 2007

New Delhi --- It's a first -- according to many a dubious first. Outraged by a programme on AXN, 'World's Sexiest Commercials', the government on Wednesday got into the moral policing act and banned the channel until March 15.

In the past, the government might have growled, even barked at 'poor taste' on TV, but it has never bitten off the channel.

The I&B ministry, which was the government's sword arm in decapitating AXN, said the programme was against 'good taste or decency' and was adversely affecting 'public morality'. Only a few days ago, the ministry had ordered two TV channels to apologise for a tasteless Gandhi video.

AXN is primarily an action channel and was broadcasting the sexy ads programme late at night, after 11 pm. According to those who have watched it, these are creative ads with sexual imagery and overtones, although rarely exposing too much skin. In that sense, it was adult stuff because it required an adult sensibility to react to the programme.

There are some other channels which show bikini-clad women in their late night programmes. Many other channels show movies that have sexual references or imagery. Which raises the question whether the government has been selective in its action against AXN.

Interestingly, the proposed broadcast Bill recommendations allow adult programming after 11 pm. So, the axe on AXN would appear to be going against the spirit of the recommendations. I&B minister P R Dasmunsi, while announcing the ban, said the broadcast Bill would be brought to Parliament in the Budget session and would address issues of programme content.

Said Dasmunsi: "It has been decided to prohibit transmission or re-transmission of the channel up to March 15, with immediate effect." Only once before has the government taken such drastic action -- against a Russian semi-pornographic channel, but never against a popular mainstream channel.

Taken aback by the action against AXN, adman Prahlad Kakkad said: "Who are they (politicians) to preach us on morality? It is for the people to decide what they wish to watch or not to watch." Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt said the government was behaving like a "paranoid mother". He added, "Every government and I&B minister has tried to use his power to appear as a protector of public morality."

I&B mulls ban on channels flouting legal provisions

By Himanshi Dhawan

New Delhi --- The I&B ministry is seriously considering a ban on content that does not comply with its reading of the Cable Regulations Act.

"Representatives from Sony met me but I have advised them to approach the ministry with their appeal for reconsideration. We are only following the law passed by Parliament.

In banning AXN, the ministry has gone through due process and given them as many as three adjournments before they came for a public hearing," Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi said.

AXN was handed down the ban after the ministry took exception to a programme, 'World's Sexiest Advertisements', broadcast on the channel in June.

I&B has other channels in crosshairs

By Himanshi Dhawan

New Delhi --- Refusing to relent on the two-month ban on AXN for airing a programme on "sexy" advertisements, information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi has other channels which could be broadcasting "adult" content.

Even as Dasmunsi heard out a legal team from Sony Television, the company that owns AXN, and directed it to meet ministry officials, he gave notice that more channels could be under the scanner. TV channels telecasting "adult" content should put their wares out on the airwaves only after 11 pm, he said.

Speaking to TOI, Dasmunsi said, "I am examining cases of certain channels that show adult content. They should not show such programming during working hours, but only after 11 pm." Channels that have such content could face a ban if they continue broadcast of "objectionable" material.

Kunal Dasgupta, Sony Television CEO, said, "We are a respected broadcaster and we have always abided by the rules laid down by the ministry. We hope that the minister will reconsider his decision." Dasgupta added that he received the notice on Thursday afternoon and was examining the matter.

Sources said that the ministry was looking to base its actions to ban or take action against channels on complaints from women's groups and sections of students.