(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 30, 2010
REALITY SHOWS INVOLVING CHILDREN
AIDWA Demands Steps against Indecency, Exploitation
ON May 25, a delegation of women met the Raghu Menon, secretary in the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) to seek the ministry’s intervention regarding the participation and projection of children in TV reality shows, in a derogatory and objectionable manner.
The delegation comprised AIDWA general secretary Sudha Sundararaman, AIDWA central executive committee members Manjeet Rathee and Ranjana Nirula, and G Mamatha. They pointed out that in a programme named “Aata” being telecast by the Zee Telugu Channel in Andhra Pradesh, very young children were shown dancing in a provocative and sensuous manner, with adult people touching young girls in objectionable ways. The secretary and other officials discussed the demands that were placed, including immediate banning of the show, and assured the delegation of necessary actions. They would also call a meeting of the related departments for a larger formulation of guidelines regarding projection of children on TV in reality shows in which AIDWA will also be involved.
The memorandum submitted to the ministry in this regard said, among other things, that the case of the reality show (Atta) reinforces the pressing need for strict enforcement of laws by the I&B Ministry in order to prevent the blatant violation of the children’s rights not only in the instance of this particular show but of all reality TV shows involving children.
According to the AIDWA, the reality TV show “Aata” involves children between the ages of 3 to 18 years and they are required to dance to film songs, particularly ‘club’ and ‘item’ numbers. Little girls are paired with men aged 18 to 25 years. They are expected to dance in a manner that is sensuous, provocative and suggestive of sexual acts. During the show, adult men touch young girls in objectionable ways. The gestures and attire are completely inappropriate for children. Participants are expected to use filthy language and quarrel with each other using offensive words. The judges routinely compare these girls to film vamps. This show is in clear violation of the Cable Networks Act 1994 and the Information Technology Act 2000, which ban the denigration of children in any programme.
The Andhra Pradesh State Committee of the AIDWA has, along with 26 other organisations working for child rights, child labour and women’s rights, filed a petition with the AP Human Rights Commission, demanding complete ban on such proliferating reality shows on Telugu channels, involving children. This joint petition has received tremendous support from parents, cutting across all sections of society. Over and above their indecent content, such reality TV shows also routinely involve other exploitative practices that are in violation of the rights of children guaranteed by various laws of our country, including the Child Labour Act and the Right to Education Act 2010 by interrupting the children’s educational process. For example:
1) Children as young as three to four years old are made to practise for 10 to 14 hours a day in residential training camps organised by TV channels.
2) Contracts are signed with parents to bind their children to channels for a minimum of three years.
3) While shooting, children are made to work throughout nights in venues that often lack basic facilities.
4) Children are encouraged to perform dangerous feats which may cause them harm or injuries, and to continue the show even if they are hurt or ill.
Moreover, children are subjected to a lot of physical and mental pressure during these shows. They are often seen breaking down, weeping or crying if they are not selected for the next round or when they face adverse comments from judges. The intense competition involving rejection at every step leads to depression and abnormal behaviour among children, particularly those who are eliminated in full public view. This is against the recommendations of child psychologists. The number of children who are eliminated in various rounds of such shows runs into thousands in Andhra Pradesh alone. Taking cognisance of such views, governments have also enacted education reforms, disallowing schools from ‘failing’ their students before Class 8.
According to the memorandum, beside impacting the participants, such shows adversely impact children as viewers as well. Many parents have complained to the AIDWA that during the telecast of such shows, their children refuse to play, study, rest or interact with other family members. After the show they use the same indecent language and imitate the vulgar dance gestures. If prevented, they behave rudely and aggressively towards their parents. Watching other children participate in TV shows in the presence of their parents erodes the discretion and guidance offered to their children by individual parents at home.
Encouraged by the interest generated by such TV shows, some schools have started organising similar dance shows during their school functions. They try to imitate the inappropriate content of TV shows in order to attract TV channels, which are driven by TRP ratings, into telecasting the recordings of their school functions. This is also having an unhealthy and distorted impact on perceptions and practices regarding extracurricular activities in schools.
The AIDWA says the continuous portrayal of children in sexually suggestive adult roles is not only robbing children of their childhood, but may also rob children of their ability to recognise or discourage inappropriate touch, language or conduct by adults towards them. This, in turn, may increase child sexual abuse in society. Specific instances of young girls being lured by traffickers who promise to teach these dances and ensure participation in reality TV shows have already come to light.
These reality shows are organised by TV channels for their TRP ratings and vested interests, using children as commodities for their commercial purposes. This amounts to the commercial exploitation of children. The organisers of such shows do not follow any rules under the Cable Network Act, IT Act 2000 or Down Linking Guidelines (2005). Neither do they follow the guidelines prepared by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in the absence of clear endorsement or enforcement by the I&B ministry.
The AIDWA memorandum said it has come to the organisation’s notice that similar complaints are also pending before the state human rights commissions of various other states. Complaints have also reached the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). However, the ministry of information and broadcasting, which is empowered by existing laws to act against organizers of TV shows or broadcasting channels is yet to take any exemplary action in this regard. Meanwhile, the content and practices surrounding the organisation, broadcast and sponsorship of these reality TV shows involving children have only deteriorated with time, as exemplified by “Aata.”
In view of the above, the AIDWA has demanded that the government take the following steps:
1) Exemplary step against the organisers, broadcasters and sponsors of “Aata.”
2) Stop to all reality TV shows, in all languages, involving indecent and inappropriate portrayal, and exploitation of children.
3) Suspension of the permission to TV channels that are found transmitting objectionable or obscene content exploiting children.
4) Initiation of penal action against the companies that sponsor such TV shows through advertisements and are also partly responsible for this exploitation by violating the Cable Network Act 1994, which restricts ads for indecent use of children.
5) Passage of a comprehensive law that prevents the exploitation of children for commercial purposes and gives strict guidelines to the electronic media regarding the portrayal of children.