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Comedy Central to be taken off air for 6 days

MUMBAI: Viacom18’s English entertainment channel Comedy Central will witness a blackout for six days starting tomorrow, after the Delhi High Court ordered that the channel be taken off air for showcasing offensive content.

The MIB had imposed the ban for telecast of two shows, ‘Stand Up Club’ and gag show ‘Popcorn’ aired in the months of May and July 2012. According to the government, the content of these shows “was not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition and children as the same depicted women as a commodity of sex and appeared to deprave, corrupt and injure the public morality and morals”.

The channel will have to go off air from 12.01 am on 26 November for six days after the HC upheld a ban imposed on it for broadcasting offensive content. This could result in big losses for the channel.

While dismissing the appeal, a bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw also imposed a fine of Rs 20,000 on the channel.

The bench had upheld a 10-day ban on Comedy Central in May last year. Viacom18 had approached the HC before the ban came into force, but a single judge opined that the ban was rightly imposed. Viacom18 had appealed the order, and it was this appeal that was decided by the court.

Since the filing of the appeal, the ban had already been in force for four days, and the penalty regarding the remaining six days will come into force now.

As per a report on Livemint, the Supreme Court today did not allow early hearing of an appeal filed by the channel. The court also refused to stay the case in the interim till the special leave petition comes up for hearing.

Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd was appealing against the decision of a two-judge bench of the Delhi HC, which had upheld an order of a ban on the channel by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) on 17 May 2013 for broadcast of offensive content.

The HC had upheld the Centre’s decision to stop transmission of Comedy Central for 10 days for airing shows containing ‘obscene’ and ‘vulgar’ dialogues besides being derogatory to women.

“We have carefully perused the contents of the two programmes to which objection has been taken and having gone through the same, are of the opinion that the matter requires no interference. The appellant is engaged in a business/enterprise which, owing to its mass appeal/base, has the potential of influencing the thought, behaviour and conduct of the citizens, especially the future citizens of this country,” the court observed.

In its appeal, Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd had said, “Prohibition of transmission will cause irreparable loss and damage to the appellant. It will also put an end to the popularity and the viability, commercially or otherwise, of the channel.”

The channel had also claimed that transmission is its fundamental right and said, “The right to operate and broadcast television channel is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution. In this view of the matter, the appellants submit that they are entitled to fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.”