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Business News/ Opinion / Views/  Producers wary of likely curbs on featuring kids
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Producers wary of likely curbs on featuring kids

The new layers may make the process of featuring children more cumbersome

The entertainment industry is apprehensive that if new layers are added to the laws already in place to protect child rights, they may impinge on creative freedom and make the process of making shows with children more cumbersomePremium
The entertainment industry is apprehensive that if new layers are added to the laws already in place to protect child rights, they may impinge on creative freedom and make the process of making shows with children more cumbersome

The draft guidelines on the dos and don’ts of the treatment, depiction and employment of children in the entertainment industry, put out by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), is making broadcasters, streaming platforms and content producers nervous. The document—Draft Regulatory Guidelines for Child Participation in the Entertainment Industry or Any Commercial Entertainment Activity—was uploaded on the Commission’s website for comments last week.

Although these are just draft guidelines, the entertainment industry is apprehensive that if new layers are added to the laws already in place to protect child rights, they may impinge on creative freedom and make the process of making shows with children more cumbersome.

The new guidelines are applicable to all audio-visual content, irrespective of the medium. They cover entertainment and news television, web shows, social media content and even advertisements. They also extend to child artistes used in live commercial events.

For starters, the Commission has reiterated that all shows employing or featuring children below the age of 18 will need the permission of the District Magistrate (DM) before commencing shoots.

Producer of any such audio-visual content or commercial event will have to furnish to the DM a list of the participating children, consent of parents or guardian and name of the person from the production or event side who will be responsible for their safety.

This provision is not new and has been part of the Child Labour Act amended in 2016. But the Commission has said if required, the DM will instruct the district’s Child Protection Unit to conduct an inspection of the workplace and accordingly issue the permit with six months’ validity.

A legal expert working for a broadcasting network said that the district magistrate’s nod is an old requirement, but what’s new and worrisome is the age limit where people up to 18 years are classified as children.

In Child Labour Act, the provisions are applicable for children up to 14 years, the person said, adding that the new age mentioned in the guidelines creates ambiguity.

“We understand that the intent is to protect everyone. However, for a child artiste, for instance, the clause on wages says that a percentage of their salary or fee should be held to protect their interests in the future. But withholding a percentage of the fee for 15 to 18 year-olds may not be easy as they are already a major in their thought process," said the person, declining to be named.

Such changes will create confusion and impinge on all the existing provisions. “What the commission needs to do is restate the existing acts and not add another layer to them," said a senior executive of a TV network which also runs a streaming platform.

Entertainment industry executives maintain that the focus of the NCPCR guidelines should be on upholding existing provisions. “We are confident that the Commission will be mindful of the fact that no new provisions are introduced that clash with existing laws," said the legal counsel mentioned above. Children are protected under various laws such as Child Labour Act, Child Marriage Act and the Juvenile Justice Act.

Another aberration is the provision which bars portrayal of children involved in substance abuse. This will eliminate depiction of children consuming alcohol or smoking in any shows made for TV or web. “This may eliminate even documentaries on child substance abuse that could have a larger message," said the TV executive.

Producers and TV networks said they follow rules and any such depiction is obviously not shot with actual substances. But to ban even the enactment of use of intoxicants where a role may require it is a bit stretched, they said.

“The Juvenile Justice Act is basically to ensure that in real life, children are protected and nobody exploits them or gives them substances. However, the Juvenile Justice Act can’t really be applied at the time of shooting a scene," said the legal expert, adding that some provisions need to be contextualised for the entertainment industry. Tinkering with the existing Acts could lead to multiple disputes and challenges and the whole purpose of the Commission in trying to protect children may get defeated as everybody starts fighting on jurisdiction, the person said.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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Published: 13 Jul 2022, 11:21 PM IST
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