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BCCC asks TV channels to exercise restraint when showing occult shows

MUMBAI: Coming down heavily on the depiction of occult, superstition, black magic, exorcism and witchcraft in TV shows, Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) has issued an advisory to all the TV channels asking them to  exercise necessary “restraint” and maximum “discretion” while airing such shows.

BCCC, the independent self-regulatory body formed by the broadcasters, has received several complaints raising concern over the telecast of such content.

In the advisory, BCCC chairman Justice (retired) Mukul Mudgal said that while respecting the channels’ creative liberties, the Council believes that such portrayal should not be exaggerated. It, therefore, considers it desirable to lay down certain guidelines for broadcasters and content creators.

Given the “reach and impact” of television as a medium, BCCC advises all member channels of Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) to exercise necessary restraint in showing such content.

“Should any such depiction become absolutely necessary in line with the story, the channel must run a scroll during its telecast, disapproving of any such practice and describing it as a work of fiction,” the advisory read.

However, one of the guidelines could turn out to be a major issue for many channels. BCCC wants the channels to air occult-based shows in the restrictive viewing hours, that is post 11 pm. BCCC has not said that such shows should not be aired during primetime.

“If the content is based predominantly on themes of occult, superstition, black magic, exorcism and witchcraft, the channel should air such a programme during restrictive viewing hours,” the advisory said.

BCCC also said that it does not support programmes based on superstition and expects the channels to exercise maximum discretion in showing such content.

It also mentioned that in keeping with Article 51 A (h) of the Indian Constitution, which urges citizens to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform, BCCC believes that any such “unreasonable and unjustifiable representation could have serious repercussions”.

“This advisory should be read in consonance with relevant legislations enacted by some states that have witnessed a rise in killings as a result of various social evils, most particularly witchcraft, practised by people inspired by superstitions,” Mudgal further stated in the advisory.

BCCC had received 4,545 complaints between 3 July 2014 and 22 August 2015, out of which close to 11 per cent were related to horror and occult content shown on entertainment television channels.

Since its formation in 2011, BCCC has issued 15 advisories to sensitise the television channels on issues like portrayal of persons with disabilities; depiction and use of National Flag, National Emblem, National Anthem and map of India; against showing acid attacks; telecast of content sensitive to minorities, telecast of content on cartoons and children’s channels; on comedy shows; on sexualisation of children; on health and safety of children; depiction of animals and wildlife; award functions; and children in TV shows.