January 15, 2021
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Booby Trap

Booby Trap

The I&B Ministry has banned FTV from 7:00 p.m. this evening till 21st March. I stand very strongly against any kind of moral policing that chooses a code for everyone which is actually supposed to only protect a small number of offended/ affected/ shocked people. But this time, I think the I&B ministry has a point. 

For those who follow fashion as social anthropology or as a glamourous sport, a channel that gives you live or recorded telecasts of ramps across the world and backstage goings-on, is entertaining, educating and fun. Besides niche interests, we all know that FTV’s content--like that of any other channel, news or entertainment--can go from banal to theatric, from insightful to boring. But the Indian government’s disagreement with FTV and the subsequent ban is about the disregard of a contract. When a contractual omission is involved, there is no defense argument for any creative freedom on earth. 

Three years back in 2007, Midnight Hot, FTV’s controversial segment that threw the then I&B ministry into moral hectoring too, had allegedly broken the same rule. It had showed “indecent” stuff during the day whereas contractually, the programme had been cleared for adult viewing only after 11 p.m. at night. Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, then the I&B minister when asked what was meant by "good taste" had weakly responded, “what the government thinks is good taste is good taste”. But in an interview to Karan Thapar, he had managed to emphasize that the ban was because of the telecast timings of Midnight Hot and that FTV hadn’t responded to show cause notices sent by the Indian government. 

An agreement, however presumptive or conservative, must be honoured by both parties who signed it. So issues of moral policing, which impinge on fundamental freedoms and should be debated and challenged when thrust down by a government or a person, are not the core of the argument here. If FTV showed nude women between 15:00 hours and 19:00 hours, (that’s what the official press release by I&B ministry says) after agreeing that it won’t, it has broken an arrangement. 

We may argue that upper body nudity or stark nakedness is as real and important to the fashion instinct as is a drape or a cape that covers a model from head to toe. We may even argue that innerwear is a hot selling segment in clothing and fashion all over the world. Fashion shows, for instance those presented by Victoria’s Secret are some the most watched and spectacular shows. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Indian government believes that 3 pm to 7 pm in the day is not a good time to show nude or semi-nude models and this condition has been overlooked by FTV. 

Take note please: this “agreement” that serves as contention is actually ambiguous and subjective, it rests inside a casually constructed sentence…“offending against good taste and decency”. These words mean hundred things to hundred people, and cannot be pinned down in a court of law where they would only result as one party’s word against the other’s. But in the press release sent to the media, Ambika Soni’s ministry clearly states that “it showed women with nude upper body offending good taste and decency”!!

Is that a clever net of words or a moral position of the ministry? Maybe both, but a broken deal is a broken deal. It is another story that the same I&B ministry also has a Film Censor board that clears cinematic material, profanities and bikini scenes in Indian films where it thinks they are “artistically acceptable”. 

FTV needs to get smarter before signing contracts in India. It either must seek telecasting flexibilities at all hours of the day as creative liberty and then, as for all adult viewing material run a line of caution to alert parents and guardians to choose.

If not, they must hold their boob shows till the witching hour.

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