A note from Media Monitoring Committee, AIDWA Tamilnadu

A note from Media Monitoring Committee, AIDWA Tamilnadu
Media Monitoring Committee, Tamilnadu is functioning as a watchdog committee on media for more than a decade. We concentrate on retrogressive portrayal of women as well as obscenity as we feel that both aspects are equally dangerous.
While appreciating the positive portrayals, which are very rare, we have made several representations condemning the negative depiction of women and describing violence as entertainment.
We have done a study on "Portrayal of women in Tamil Women's magazines", "Women in Tamil Films and film songs", Women in TV mega Serials and recently on "glorification of eve teasing in Tamil Film Songs". To find out to what extent working women's issues are addressed in Tamil cinema, a study was undertaken along with TN FORCES (NGO). Out of 2000 movies spread over 11 years, only 25 talked about working women's issues. A booklet on this study was also published.
On the above mentioned study of mega serials, we collected reactions from 250 respondents for our questionnaire. This kind of viewers response is necessary to find out where they are and what needs to be done.
We have approached the editorial committees of many Tamil magazines whenever objectionable portrayal of women comes up. Changes, apologies from their side have also been published. On our representation, a retrogressive conclusion of a story which was awarded Rs.5000/- by a magazine was changed by publishing part II of it, written by a progressive writer. That too was awarded prize. Similarly, when a magazine published a serial article "story of an actress" which was giving graphic details in a vulgar way of how actresses were sexually molested and abused, through our protest actions, it was stopped, though we asked only for changing the style to create moral anger among the readers against the sexual abuse in the cine industry.
We are part of the media watch set up the state women's commission. Recently that committee had a meeting with faculty members of communication departments from various colleges to find out the existing syllabus and also thought about plans to gender sensitize the curriculum. Through the commission, we took up with the state transport department and stopped playing obscene film songs in the buses through audio/video cassettes. We have suggested to use "Tamilnadu Film publicity materials censorship act" to censor film songs and posters. We have had interaction with the Regional officer, censor board several times.
Recently we staged demonstrations against hardcore, repulsive obscenity in the Tamil films "Boys" and "New" before the theatres. We have filed a writ against "Boys". Through our protest action and people's reaction, the director of "Boys" made voluntary cuts of many objectionable shots and scenes.
As far as TV commercials are concerned, we regularly take them up with Mumbai based "Advertisement Standards Council of India" and successfully stalled Kamasutra condom advertisement and modified LML Adreno bike advt. for their negative portrayal.
Constructive actions:
  • We are regularly anchoring a programme on women's issues (Magalir Panchayat) in DD
  • We are giving programmes in AIR regularly.
  • We had representations in Film censor board, a few years back and we were able to strictly monitor women's portrayal
  • We produced an half an hour telefilm called "Elipathy" to expose the travails of a home maker and break the stereotype that she is sitting idle at home.
  • We gave a programme on "Women in Cinema" in DD
  • We were part of a group which worked out one minute social advertisements on gender issues; some of them - home maker's role at home, father's responsibility in bringing up children, the real reason for formation of the sex of the child (chromosome aspect) for which woman is not responsible - were telecast in DD.
We are enclosing some of our suggestions for NCW's consideration and action.
All India Democratic women's Association - Tamilnadu
13, Mosque Street, Chennai 600 005
Recommendations for a gender - healthy climate in media
The prevailing situation of commodification of women on the one hand and stereotyping based on feudal values on the other needs no elaboration. Especially women in public life and politics and those who favour feminism are specifically targeted.
Working class women and dalit women are not portrayed as prominent characters in general, there may be exceptions, thus marginalizing a majority section in the visual medium.
Violence against women is shown or written in a sensational style, thus undermining the real impact of the incident and the questions it poses regarding the status of women in this patriarchal society.
  • The central Govt. should come out with a broad media policy with gender component, which should have scientific, secular, democratic values
  • All the media houses must have a gender policy for their respective organizations (like editorial policy) both regarding their women employees and the portrayal of women in their medium.
  • School curriculum must include gender and media studies
  • The appointment to the film censor board must be transparent. It is not enough if a certain percentage of the board/panel comprises of VIP women.
  • Atleast some of them should be representing women's movement/women's perspective.
  • All censor panel members must undergo gender sensitization course
  • There should be constant inter-action between panel members and various sections of the society.
  • The film songs, though part of the film, are released much before the film is censored. Obscenity/vulgarity/stereotyping have become the main theme for the songs. So, when the lyrics are censored during the film censorship, it would be meaningless since the audio cassettes will be singing even the censored lines in all the street corners. So, there has to some mechanism to stop it. Our suggestion is that the audio cassettes of film songs, either as a promo" should be censored before its release, or as part of the film, should be censored along with the film and then only could be allowed to be released.
  • Tamilnadu has a law called "Compulsory Censorship of film publicity materials Act"; that could be used for film songs and posters.
  • Censor guidelines should be positively used. Indecent portrayal should not be allowed using the loop-holes in the guidelines.
  1. Cable TV regulation act should be strictly implemented.
  2. A media monitoring committee should be set up to monitor the programmes in all channels.
  3. The advertisements must undergo censorship before its telecast.
  4. For every 10 minutes commercial advertisements, there has to be a one minute social message
  5. Gender sensitization courses must be strictly organized for programme executives, especially for mega serial makers.
  • For every 10 minutes commercials, there has to be one minute socially relevant message
  • Self regulation must be emphasized for FM channels. We could make the transport secretary to the Govt. to issue a circular to all the transport undertakings not to play obscene film songs and to a certain extent, it was helpful. But now, almost all the mofussil buses are playing Suryan and Mirchi FM channels which do not practice such restrictions. This makes the Transport department circular meaningless.
  • Periodical gender sensitization courses must be organized for programme executives.
Print Medium:
  • Press Council must be strengthened.
  • Scurrilous writing must be constantly monitored and taken up with the respective media houses.
  • There has to be a certain representation for women in the decision making bodies in the print medium.
  • " Police advisory committee in Chennai city must have as an agenda about the implementation of Indecent Representation of Women Prohibition Act.
  • " It should come out with a quarterly report on its implementation of this act.
  • " The hoardings at important places in the city should be monitored by the police and any violation must be checked using this act.
  • " Since, cinema posters do not come under the purview of this act, we should find a separate mechanism for this. We remember, a few years back, there was a committee set up under the chairmanship of Mr.Kolappan, IAS, then Commissioner of Chennai Corporation on this issue and the committee held a broad consultation with citizens and women's organizations. But the recommendations were not made public. We could ask for the same.
  • " Except for films including advertisements, pre-censorship should not be recommended. It will definitely interfere with freedom of expression. Self regulation, monitoring, formulations of broad guidelines , interventions from the public/public fora alone will help solve the problem.
prepared by
R. Brinda, Convenor, Media Monitoring Committee, Tamilnadu
U. Vasuki, Gen. secretary, AIDWA Tamilnadu