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Ban on smoking scenes from October 2

Thursday 16 June 2005

Special Correspondent

I&B Ministry cites practical difficulties

The ban will be subject only to some rare situations such as treatment of historical personalities known to smoke, and period films

NEW DELHI: Film and television programme producers have got a short breather vis-a-vis the ban on smoking in films and serials. The Ministries of Health and Family Welfare and Information and Broadcasting (I&B) on Wednesday decided to delay the imposition of the ban on smoking scenes in television serials and movies by two months from August 1 this year to Gandhi Jayanti (October 2).

A decision to this effect was taken here after a detailed meeting between Information and Broadcasting Minister S. Jaipal Reddy and Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss along with senior officials from the two Ministries. The meeting had been sought by Mr. Ramadoss and was convened after the I&B Ministry sent its formal response to the Health Ministry on the practical difficulties involved in implementing the ban.

Meeting in the backdrop of reports of differences between the two Ministries over the ban - announced by the Health Minister on the eve of World No Tobacco Day on May 31 - the two Ministers later told reporters: "There is no question of one side making any compromise. There is absolute agreement with regard to objectives. This meeting was to deal with the modalities." Stating that there cannot be two views on the need to restrict, de-glamorise and discourage smoking scenes, Mr. Reddy said the two Ministries reached a "complete understanding on the manner in which the ban should be implemented."

In the case of new films, the ban would be subject only to some rare situations such as the treatment of historical personalities known to smoke, and period films. Also, it would be allowed as part of social messaging against smoking itself. As for old films, due to technical difficulties, it was agreed that instead of a prominent scroll containing a health warning accompanying smoking/tobacco-using scenes, theatre owners would have to show warning slides.

For serials, the ban would be total in the case of new programmes and fresh episodes of running serials from October 2 onwards. Old serials would require scrolling to warn viewers of the consequences of smoking. In this case, the responsibility of implementing the ban would be on the broadcaster.

Again, due to the "insuperable technical hurdles" involved in imposing the ban on programmes telecast live, the Health Ministry has accepted I&B Ministry’s contention that it would impracticable. However, in the case of deferred/delayed telecast, the broadcaster will be required to warn people through scrolling.

The two ministries also reached an understanding on the need to discourage brand-sharing/extension.

Exceptions will be made to the rule after consideration by an inter-ministerial committee. While the ban can currently be imposed only on channels uplinking from India, the proposed downlinking policy will factor in this new regime.

See online : The Hindu

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