Life is about seasons, cycles, patterns. About fake sting operations on TV channels or radio jockeys (RJs) who wisecrack their way to an uproar and, “self-regulation” committees and clauses that kick in after that.
Red FM faced charges of racial slur after its RJ made certain comments on air. In the ensuing or coinciding time frame,?the?Association?of?Radio?Operators of India announced the formation of a committee to create a self-regulatory content?code for private FM radio broadcasting in India. It could have been in the pipeline anyway, but the timing is classic.
In a similar pattern, TV news channel Live India was recently under fire from the information and broadcasting ministry for reportedly beaming a false sting operation, which sparked riots and got a woman jailed. After this, the noises certain broadcast brands and bodies were making on content self-regulation seem to have become more audible.
Some may call this knee-jerk. Or just pre-emptive and savvy. The real story is that no medium or ad business really wants Big Brother censoring their content and squelching their independence or creativity. So, it is wiser to act fast and self-regulate first. It’s more prudent to work as a body with the ministry, so that the concerned industry has a real say in “self-regulating”.
Cynics ask if any industry can self-regulate impartially, effectively and, most important, consistently. Some say a neutral third party should have more voice in such efforts. Old timers cite how attempts to regulate tobacco “surrogate” ads have not really stubbed the butt. They narrate how tobacco manufacturers and bodies had at one time actually approached an ad body to formulate self-regulatory guidelines for their ads to pre-empt government controls.
“Tobacco bigwigs, however, found two regulatory clauses unacceptable: that the code would extend from tobacco ads to products they would come out with under the same brand such as mineral water, playing cards, etc. The ad body also found that youth were more vulnerable to the lure of smoking and suggested a restriction on film stars and cricketers endorsing smoking or tobacco brands. It became an impasse and?ultimately?no code was hammered out till official clamps stepped in,” recalls an ad veteran. These thoughts are echoed by others. They wonder at some ads that could be seen as surrogate liquor or tobacco ads still doing the rounds.
So much for regulation—self or otherwise?
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Comments are welcome at email@example.com