No laughing matter: Comedy Central off air till June 3

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | May 28, 2013
The contentious content was telecast on prime time, during which children are a part of the audience.

The Delhi High Court has upheld the complaint filed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on May 17 against English comedy entertainment channel Comedy Central. The ministry had raised objections on the content of the channel aired last year: the April 26, 2012 episode of the show, 'Stand up Club', which was aired at 20:52 hours and the July 4, 2012 episode of the show, 'Popcorn', which was aired at 07:52 hrs. The channel is hence unavailable on any of the platforms since May 25, 2013 and will be off air till June 3.

Comedy Central

As per the ministry, the two episodes carried obscene dialogues and vulgar words which were derogatory to women and hence appeared to offend good taste and decency. The I&B Ministry had filed the complaint with the channel in July 2012, to which the channel suggested, 'as a process, the Hon'ble Ministry should have raised the stated in present notice before Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) and not with the broadcaster directly', thereby forwarding the complaint to BCCC.

The exchange of complaints and responses between the ministry and the network, Viacom18 (broadcaster of Comedy Central in India), has been going on since then. The complaint filed by the inter-ministerial council (IMC) of the I&B Ministry was upheld by the Delhi High Court recently.

Interestingly, while the content was telecast on prime time (as per the ministry), during which children are a part of the audience, the channel caters to English language comedy content targeted to niche viewership accustomed to and interested in listening to English language programmes. Both the aforementioned shows are non-fiction programmes.

The channel spokesperson declined to comment, saying that the matter is sub judice. However, it was confirmed that there is no scope for discussion, and the channel will remain off air till June 3 (midnight). It will resume telecast on all the platforms of the country on June 4, 00.01 hours.

It may be noted that Comedy Central could lose a share of revenues and viewership as a result of the issue. However, the spokesperson stated that it is early days to comment on that.

Recently, Hindi movie channel Manoranjan TV was also forced to go off air due to the telecast of an A-rated movie in the afternoon time slot. While the ministry claims to be supporting self-regulation within media, there have been instances (pertaining to the telecast of Dirty Picture even after 52 cuts and the telecast of a dramatisation of the Delhi Gang Rape on a non-fiction show) where the ministry has stepped in with or without BCCC's involvement.

For the record, Comedy Central, the US-based comedy entertainment channel, was launched in India in January, 2012. The channel is available in more than 20 countries across the world.

The BCCC is an industry body that deals with complaints filed against broadcasted content.

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