Indian court says censor must approve TV shows, ads

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NEW DELHI--A New Delhi court has ruled that India's state-run TV broadcaster Doordarshan, cable networks and local TV channels cannot air adult movies, programs or advertisements without clearance from the official censor.

The draconian July 4 order by Prem Kumar, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of New Delhi's Metropolitan Court, requires each channel to procure a "U" certificate for universal viewing. The order applies to Doordarshan from August 1.

"The government will have to initiate a clear policy to stop the cultural invasion," the judgement stated. "It is hoped that the government will become live and conscious to its constitutional obligations to see that the foreign TV networks do not uproot Indian culture, traditional values and Indian laws by the display of vulgar programs for economic reasons."

The judgement affects Doordarshan most of all, followed by networks based in India but uplinking from other countries. Innuendoes and disrespect for women will not be tolerated, according to the judge's ruling. All broadcast content will have to be vetted by the Censor Board.

Doordarshan has been criticized for airing 21 programs that portrayed crime and adultery in family life. "The reliance by the Doordarshan authorities on its own code is not of much avail," Judge Kumar observed. He gave the New Delhi-based broadcaster until July 31 to file a compliance report. The lawsuit's next hearing is on Aug. 1.

As India's largest TV network, Doordarshan is viewed by 250 million people and earned revenues of $232 million in 1995, 69% of all TV spending in the South Asian country. Bombay-based Zee Network followed with $66 million and Star TV with $17.5 million. Both Zee and Star are majority owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

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