Comedy Central to go off-air for 6 days
Delhi high court noted that it had gone through the allegedly offensive content and found ‘that the punishment meted out is proportionate to the violations’
New Delhi: Entertainment channel Comedy Central will have to go off air from 12.01am on 26 November for six days after the Delhi high court upheld a ban imposed on it for broadcasting offensive content.
Finding Viacom 18 had “abused the faith reposed in it under the self-regulatory regime” in the broadcasting industry, a bench of chief justice G. Rohini and Rajiv Sahai Endlaw upheld the 10-day ban on Viacom 18’s Comedy Central channel in May last year. Viacom had approached the high court before the ban came into force but a single judge decided that the ban was rightly imposed.
Viacom had appealed the order, and it was this appeal that was decided on Monday. Since at the time the appeal was filed, the ban had already been in force for four days, the penalty regarding the remaining six days will come into force now.
Upholding the ban imposed by the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) on 17 May 2013, the bench noted that it had gone through the allegedly offensive content and found “that the punishment meted out is proportionate to the violations and justly meets the collective cry of the society” and proceeded to impose costs of Rs.20,000 on the company.
MIB had imposed the ban for telecast of two shows in the months of May and July 2012. The first was Stand Up Club which according to the government “was not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition and children as the same depicted women as a commodity of sex and appeared to deprave, corrupt and injure the public morality and morals”.
“The content code prescribed by the Cable Television Networks Rules itself is regressive and phrased extremely conservatively. Any interpretation of these rules can only lead to a result like the one in this case. The law should clearly state that only content that constitutes an offence under law will be actionable,” said Apar Gupta, a lawyer with extensive experience in media laws.
“It is strange that all our paternalism surfaces when it comes to sexualized content but there is little concern displayed for society, women, values or children in the context of shows that do much more damage by suggesting that a woman’s place in the kitchen, that her achievements depend on the colour of her skin, that a moral woman must remain in an abusive marriage, or that a liberated woman is ‘asking’ to be raped”, said Chinmayi Arun, research director at Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University, Delhi.
The channel stands to lose about Rs.60 lakh in total including advertising revenue and distribution revenue (paid to multi system operators), according to estimates by media buyers. Typically a niche channel draws an ad revenue of Rs.7 lakh per day which makes it an ad revenue loss Rs.40-45 lakh for the penalty period. The distribution revenue loss would be about Rs.17-18 lakh.