New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) Bowing to pressure from child rights groups, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Wednesday recommended that children below 16 years of age be barred from participating in reality TV shows.
'Children on reality shows are often faced with harsh working conditions that may have an adverse impact on their health. We are not lobbying that such shows be banned but regulations are necessary and broadcasters should voluntarily endorse them,' Sandhya Bajaj, member of the NCPCR, told IANS.
'On one such show, seven or eight-year-old participants are being exposed to harsh lights, and singing or dancing continuously for long hours. Besides, they are subjected to harsh and unnecessary jibes from judges which can be demoralizing,' Bajaj said.
The Commission said it would prescribe the minimum age limit for participants to be over 16 years, but added that it could be brought down to 12 years (in case of group competitive shows).
'We are in the process of giving these recommendations to the Information & Broadcasting ministry within one month,' she said.
The NCPCR suggested that no cash awards be given in such shows and if at all educational bonds or fixed deposits be handed out to participants.
It recommended that a counsellor be present at reality shows and punitive action be taken against broadcasters/show producers if a child is subjected to mental harassment through unusually harsh comments.
'The Shinjini case, where the director and producers of the Bengali reality show claimed that her parents had hidden facts about her asthmatic condition, is just an example of how not having vital information about the child can result in the child's health being compromised so the commission has also suggested that interviewing parents of interested participants of reality shows be made mandatory," Bajaj said.
Shinjini, a participant on a Bengali music reality show, suffered a breakdown and had to be hospitalised in June after she was severely rebuked by the judges for her performance.
Bajaj said: "The final call on the guidelines is to be taken a month from now. These guidelines will be prepared after consulting media representatives, child experts, and after taking viewpoints from children who have participated on reality shows and then be submitted to the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting to act on."
Tushar Majmudar, father of 14-year-old Aishwarya Majmudar who won the Star Voice of India Chhote Ustad title this year, however, opposed the move.
"This is just not fair on the children and is a totally insensitive proposal. It is the misfortune of the public that only a few people have the power to decide these things,' Majmudar told IANS.
'Just because so many accidents take place on the road, they don't ban people from driving vehicles. Giving a national platform to children to showcase their talent does not mentally pressurize them. I think we should have more such shows," he added.