Firm fiat to three TV channels

BY Radhika sachdev| IN Law and Policy | 14/07/2012
Broadcasters of children's talent shows are told to amend their audition contracts in line with NCPCR guidelines.
This is in response to a complaint filed with BCCC by the author of a Hoot series on the subject, RADHIKA SACHDEV.
On July 12, the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), a 13-member body chaired by retired Chief Justice of the Madras High Court A.P. Shah, asked the representatives of three Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs), Zee TV, Sony Entertainment, and Colors, to remove the “one-sided” audition contracts that they have on their websites and post new ones that comply with the exhaustive guidelines issued by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).    
This correspondent had filed a complaint with BCCC, established under the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), about the one-sided contracts that the three Hindi GECs were signing with the child participants in their talent shows. At present, there are three such shows running on Indian TV - Zee TV’s Lil Champs, Sony Entertainment TV’s Indian Idol, and Color's India’s Got Talent.
The hearing on the case concluded on Friday, and the channels have been advised to amend their audition contracts in compliance with the NCPCR guidelines.    
Earlier, The Hoot examined the “terms and conditions” section of theseaudition contracts and found that they were unconscionable and violative not only of Section 23 of the Indian Contract Act; the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act; and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1989, to which India is a signatory, but also flouted the NCPCR guidelines that protect the rights of child participants in TV serials, reality shows, and advertisements. 
For instance, Section 18.1 to 18.3 of the NCPCR guidelines talks about ensuring “physical condition and safety of the children” on production sets, but the contracts of these three channels absolve them of all responsibility even in the case of an accident, injury, or death caused to the child-participant on the production sets.
Specific contractual clauses maintain that if such an unfortunate incident were to take place, the channels would not be held responsible and would not be liable to pay any compensation to the child-participant.
In contrast, the NCPCR guidelines are so comprehensive that they do not just recommend physical safety of the child, but also recommend that the broadcasters must share their child protection policy with all stakeholders (18.1); that child-participants cannot be made to attend more than one audition/production shoot at a time (16.2); the audition must be scheduled after school hours or during holidays (16.2; to meet the demands of the Right to Education Act, 2009); that they should only be asked to perform ONLY on age-appropriate acts (15.1-15.7); that child-participants should not be subject to any ridiculing or bullying by the judges (15.8-15.10); that parents of minors should be informed about the consequences (physical, mental, or psychological) of such shows (15.11 and 19.6); that basic amenities in the form of recreation, rest, and travel arrangements (18.5 and 18.9); that no financial inducement must be sought for participation (19.4); that 50% of the payment made to them should be set aside in a fixed deposit/bond for the child’s future use, and out of the balance 50%, a portion to pay for his/her school fee and the rest could go to the parents; among a host of other suggestions. 
“With child participants, it’s better to err on the side of caution,” a BCCC member told the representatives of the channels at the hearing.
The BCCC panel agreed that with respect to children, the standard of self- regulation, whether implemented by a statutory body, the press, or a broadcasting agency, would have to be different and more stringent.
“If you don’t take adequate measures, you can run into serious trouble with the statutory authorities,” Justice Shah warned the three channel representatives who assured the chairman that they will make necessary amends in their contracts.
Justice Shah went so far as to say, “If you don’t act on this issue, I would be forced to act in my personal capacity.”
To access Hoot reports on this issue, click here:
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