The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has issued an advisory to private satellite television channels asking them to avoid indecent, suggestive and inappropriate representation of children in dance reality shows or other such programmes.

The advisory follows the ministry’s observation that in several dance-based reality TV shows, young children can be seen copying dance moves of adults in movies and other popular modes of entertainment.

“These moves are often suggestive and age-inappropriate. Such acts may also have a distressing effect on children, impacting them at a young and impressionable age," a statement from the ministry said.

The channels have been further advised to exercise maximum restraint, sensitivity and caution while showing such reality shows and programmes.

Private satellite TV channels are expected to abide by the provisions contained in the Programme & Advertising Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and rules framed, the statement added. As per the same, no programme which denigrates children should be aired on TV. Further, programmes meant for children should not contain any bad language or explicit scenes of violence.

The new directive essentially means that dance reality shows like Super Dancer (Sony Entertainment Television) and Dance India Dance L’il Masters (Zee TV) besides other popular formats like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa L’il Champs (Zee TV), Indian Idol Junior (Sony) and Sabse Bada Kalakar (Sony) will come under the scanner.

“If you look at the jokes, themes and outfits in most of these shows, the idea is to bring kids, whose cognitive abilities are not that developed, closer to the adult world. When they are exposed to an environment and lifestyle that they are not ready for, they don’t entirely realize it is make-believe and would nurture a great desire to live the same in real life as well," said Dr. Pulkit Sharma, a clinical psychologist practising in Pondicherry.

Sharma said the directive was healthy given that the situation on most children’s reality shows today is sad, dotted with adult sexual humour and innuendo.

“I don’t understand why there should be jokes on a five-year old having a girlfriend. For shows centered on children, it is ironic that I would not want my child to see this kind of content," Sharma added.

Last year, the video of playback singer Papon kissing a minor participant on music reality show The Voice Of India Kids 2 had sparked off discussion on the grim reality of reality TV shows. Earlier in 2011, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights had issued guidelines for children participating in TV shows and advertisements, to regulate their working hours, prohibiting inappropriate portrayal and ensuring supervision. But modalities remain a challenge.

“We all agree that the depiction, portrayal and use of children on TV is something we should be careful about and pay attention to," said TV critic Shailaja Bajpai. “But there are so many issues here --- after all, parents of the children haven’t been forced to these shows. Besides, so many Hindi film songs are of this nature so how do you work with anybody under age? While this intervention is healthy, how it is implemented remains a grey area," she added.

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