This article is written by Swayamsiddha Das, pursuing a Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws from LawSikho.
Be it the beloved Indian Idol, Dance India Dance and Master Chef the Indian Television Reality Shows has always been a source of entertainment in every household. Usually, these reality shows only have adults as their contestant but as the TV industry is growing and the TRPs being the prime concern these TV reality shows started to launch various spin offs like Indian Idol Junior, Dance India Dance Junior, Masterchef Junior these shows are exclusively made for children below 14 years.
One might agree that the main reason for having these spinoffs is to provide the budding performers with a platform where they could showcase their talent but then at the same time we need to question Are these children adequately protected? Whether taking in children below the age of 14 years promote Neo-child labour? Is there any law that sets out certain guidelines for the enrolment of Minors in the reality show? Is there any kind of fixed number of the working hours for child artists? Can the TV reality show sign a contract with a Minor?
Reality Shows and Children: a Brief Background
The involvement of children in reality shows has increased a lot in the span of a few years. for which various entertainment channels wreck their brains to come up with various shows in which children can participate. No doubt it is seen as an extra-curricular activity for children and provides them with a lot of opportunities, recognition and exposure and make sure that the children have a good time enjoying themselves but at the same, it indirectly put a lot of burden on the children as everyone aspires to win the trophy and cash prize.
Participating in an adult dominated entertainment industry children often become the prey of emotional and physical stress which is something that children at this fragile age should not be dealing with. Then comes the question of how do children enter into these shows? Do they do it with their own volition? To this the answer is a No, children don’t get themselves registered in the reality shows it is their parents, guardians who get them enrolled and take decisions on behalf of them now we might ask what is wrong in taking decisions on behalf of your minor child it is indeed not wrong but the lack of the monitoring system the children are often exploited by their parents and guardians.
Is Reality Show a Child’s Play?
To this the answer in my opinion would be no, as being judged in front of an audience of millions and facing criticising comments, parents being upset, being marked out of 10 and 100s puts a lot of pressure on the child. We all have witnessed how children often break down on stage when they have to face elimination and harsh comments from the judges.
Moreover, to keep the audience glued to the show various stages are involved like the Bottom 10, Top 3 etc. in which the major portion is counted through audience poll and in some instances there might be some tampering with the votes just to keep the audience hooked. Hence not every reality show enrolling minors is based on searching for young talents. Supporters will say that the following show is a competition and the child is learning how to take in constructive criticism but then the question Is it all worth going through all kinds of stress for a show?
Given this context, particularly in light of children’s susceptibility, particular protection and care for children, as well as proper legal protection while working in the entertainment business, are essential and unquestionable. The rights of child performers must be respected. Primary considerations should be needs and development.
NCPCR take on Children Participating in Reality Show
NCPCR stands for National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights the goal of the commission is to uphold the rights of children who participate in Tele serials, advertisements, as well as other forms of entertainment.
The commission has tried to ensure that no child during the participation in these reality shows are exploited and therefore have rolled out guidelines which the producer of the show is bound to follow and these are as follows:
Content of Programmes Involving Children
- No child should be cast in a position or scenario that is improper for him or her, or that may bring him or her discomfort or embarrassment. The child’s age, competence, emotional and mental development, and susceptibility must all be taken into account.
- To create a more genuine picture of an emotional reaction, no child should be placed in uncomfortable situations.
- Reality programmes should not be centred on competitiveness. No child should be subjected to mockery, insult, or discouragement, as well as harsh words or any other behaviour that may harm his or her mental well-being.
- Judges’ comments on reality programmes and talent search shows should be constructive. When judging a child’s performance in reality programmes, keep in mind his or her sensitivity.
- It should be assured that children are not anxious or distressed as a result of their participation in such programmes or their broadcast.
- In the paper, the nature of the programme should be stated. A copy of the child’s bond, agreement, or contract with the film producer, television serial producer, or reality show producer should be obtained.
Defining Age-related Norms for the Participation of Children in TV/Reality Shows
- The number of hours a child can shoot in a day should be regulated according to his or her age. The amount of hours a child should engage in the studio is influenced by their age, i.e. younger is the child lesser is the time spent in the studio practising.
- No child should be forced to perform in many productions at the same time. Children’s participation in recorded/live television programmes is best accomplished during vacations so that the child does not miss school. This concept is significant in the context of the government’s newly approved Right to Education Act.
Child Protection and Supervision
- Children under the age of six should be monitored at all times by at least one parent or a trusted adult.
- Children aged 6 and above may be watched by at least one parent or a trusted adult.
Ensuring the Physical Conditions and Safety of Children
- It is essential to ensure that the working environment is child-friendly. Children’s guidelines should be created by all production units. General concepts, methods for obtaining parental approval, good practices, staff protocols for engaging with children, and a child safety policy should all be included in the recommendations.
- A parent should be present during the shoot to offer care and support to the child. Parents should be advised not to express disappointment if their child loses or performs poorly.
- All reality programmes including children should hire a child psychologist/counsellor who should be present on-site for the duration of the show.
Terms and Conditions for Parental/Guardian Consent
- Before a child appears in a programme, the producer should acquire parental consent. When it comes to orphan children, the organizations can sign the consent under CWC’s (Child Welfare Committee supervision.
- A parent or guardian offers their permission for their child to participate in the Right to Education Act’s restrictions and provides information on when the child is “needed to be in school.” The form should be provided to the program’s producers after completion, who should maintain it and guarantee that the kid is not forced or permitted to participate during the hours when the youngster is awake.
Ensuring Education of Child Participants
- It is well acknowledged that engagement in sports and cultural activities benefits a child’s overall development. At the same time, education is a basic human right. The Right to Education Act of 2009 makes education compulsory for all children aged 6 to 14 years.
- It is the sole responsibility of the parents and the production unit in this regard to guarantee that the school attendance of young performers is not hampered by their performing commitments.
- As far as possible, the child’s acting routine should be arranged around weekends and school breaks in production.
Payment for Children
- Children under the age of 18 are not permitted by law to open bank accounts or sign legal documents such as contracts. As a result, the payments for their participation should be in the form of a fixed deposit or bonds.
- A minimum of 50% of the money must be sent away for children in fixed deposits or bonds that mature when they become 18 years old.
Are there any exceptions that allow Children below 14 to Work?
Yes, there are some exception provided under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2017 under Section 2(B), a child is allowed to work without hampering his school education in any manner if he/she is supporting his/her family financially and Section-2(C) provides that a child can work as an artist provided he is not asked to work for more than 5 hours in a day and the producer that is inculcating any child in its advertisement and TV show shall only involve a child only after obtaining prior permission of the district magistrate even before obtaining consent from the guardians and undertaking of the Form-C.
Case Study on the Dark Side of the Reality Shows
The Kerala State Council for Child Welfare (KSCCW) has received a complaint regarding child labour in a daily soap on television. On a series set, child artists’ rights were infringed. The parents of the child actors filed a suit. According to their allegation, the minors were compelled to work insane hours. It also brought up the question of delayed payment.
This serial starred around 132 kids. Child performers were not permitted to work for more than three hours a day, according to the laws. Nonetheless, they were compelled to perform for long periods without rest, and at the end of the shoot, they were not even paid. At the start of the Television program, there was a clear infringement of children’s rights.
As a result, the council has decided to take the matter up with the Kerala State Commission for Child Rights. The petitioners were instructed to submit a police report and then transmit it to the commission.
These were the child labour rules in India’s entertainment sector. Apart from that, there must be some strict guidelines relating to the POCSO as children are also vulnerable to various forms of sexual abuse and harassment. Ex: the famous singer Papon doing inappropriate things on a Reality TV Show with a minor.
Children who engage in reality programmes and television serials may be unable to handle work pressure. This is due to a lack of mental and emotional capability. This is a fact that we cannot refute. As these teenage artists strive for fame and fortune, their parents disregard their basic rights. It not only deprives kids of a normal upbringing but also forces them to labour. They must also complete their education at the same time.
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