No 'bedroom talk' on TV - are policymakers playing spoilsport?

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) First it was strict guidelines for kid actors, then a demand to ban popular TV show "Balika Vadhu" and now a debate on reality show "Sach Ka Saamna" -- the Indian TV industry is witnessing a sudden spurt in interference by policymakers, say viewers.

Samajwadi Party MP Kamal Akhtar's recent outburst in parliament over "obscene questions about a person's bedroom life" on STAR Plus' "Sach Ka Saamna" has raised eyebrows among viewers about the regulation of TV content in the country.

"I don't understand what the MP is debating about," said 22-year-old Neha Gadi, who watches the show with avid interest.

"What's wrong with personal questions if the contestant has no problems in answering them? I don't think anyone else needs to have an issue. If he (Akhtar) thinks it's obscene and it is not a good show to watch, he must not watch it -- why impose something on others unnecessarily," added Gadi, an event management professional.

Nakul Mehta, who works in a human resource management firm, echoes the sentiment.

"If people want to regulate TV content, they must do it for news channels first. Some of them are ridiculous. Shows like 'Sach Ka Saamna' are gripping and interesting, and more importantly, a matter of choice for the viewers," he said.

Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni believes there must be a defined limit to the content shown on television.

"A 'Lakshman rekha' (a limit) is required. We are copying Western culture and a line needs to be drawn somewhere, we have received the same kind of feedback from the masses too," Soni said in an interview to Zee News' chat show "Kahiye Janab".

Some parliamentarians have taken a strong stance against the show "Sach Ka Saamna".

According to Kamal Akhtar, who raised his point in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday, other shows like "Rakhi Ka Swayamvar", "Balika Vadhu" and "Iss Jungle Se Mujhe Bachao" also need some regulatory body to monitor the content.

"These shows do no value addition to our society. There is no good message that they are trying to send out -- on patriotism or on Indian society. So it is my plea that the government must look into what reaches the viewers after proper censorship," Akhtar told IANS.

Some viewers have however expressed disgust over the personal nature of the questions asked on "Sach Ka Saamna".

"The questions asked are very voyeuristic, very titillating, maybe that is why the programme is such a hit. I think some of the questions they pose are simply disgusting," according to Vandana Sharma. She said her 12-year-old son is very keen to watch the show, after hearing about it from his classmates, and she has a tough time keeping him away from the TV.

Janata Dal-United president Sharad Yadav had caused much brouhaha when he approached Soni to ban "Balika Vadhu", a show which deals with child marriage. Yadav argued that the show did nothing to discourage the age-old social practice. However, Soni gave a clean chit to the show's broadcaster Colors after detailed scrutiny.

Sandhya Bajaj, member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), had also expressed resentment over Colors' show "Na Aana Iss Des Laado", which deals with female infanticide, when it began. She had felt that the subject was hard-hitting for a TV show meant for entertainment, but maintained that such shows could be aired on a mass medium provided they are handled in a "very subtle" manner.

Bajaj has also recently submitted a list of dos and don'ts for TV shows involving children to the women and child affairs ministry -- she demanded a counsellor be present on the sets of the show, limited work hours for child actors and no heavy make-up for them, healthy food and recreational facilities on the sets and the presence of a parent or guardian during shoots.

In "Sach Ka Saamna", an adaptation of American show "Moment of Truth", contestants are required to answer 21 questions about their lives after undergoing a polygraph test that determines if an answer is true. If successful, the contestant can walk away with a prize money of Rs.10 million.

The information and broadcasting ministry has sent a show cause notice to Star Plus following Kamal Akhtar's objections to "Sach Ka Saamna". The channel has to respond by Monday.

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