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This article is written by Anushka Yadav from the Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the provisions relating to revised code for commercial advertising on Doordarshan. 

Introduction 

What nature of advertising is permitted to be broadcasted on Indian Television? Is there any prescribed code for determining the justified nature of advertisement to be broadcasted? 

The answer to these questions is that there is a general rule for the nature of advertisement prescribed to be broadcasted on Doordarshan. This code is general and thus applicable to all other forms of television broadcasting. The Code for Commercial Advertisement on Doordarshan and All India Radio is a specific code that is to be followed by Doordarshan for governing the prescribed nature of advertising on it. 

Doordarshan’s background 

Doordarshan, popularly known as DD, is an autonomous broadcaster for public service founded by the Government of India in 1959. The motto of Doordarshan is “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”. In 1959, Doordarshan was just a small transmitter. The regular transmission started in 1965 when it became a part of All India Radio. The television services of Doordarshan were started in 1972 in Mumbai and Amritsar. It was the sole service of television in India. And this service was extended to seven cities till 1975. The nationwide telecast of Doordarshan was done in 1982. Today it has grown to a wide area. It has 46 Doordarshan studios now. It is also broadcasted internationally in 146 countries. 

Overview of the code 

Doordarshan was the first nationwide broadcast in India. The advertisements shown on Doordarshan were believed to be genuine. The practice of advertisement was believed to be healthy. To ensure this, the Code for Commercial Advertisement on Doordarshan plays a significant role. 

The code establishes a standard that shall be complied with to advertise on Doordarshan. If you are thinking of advertising your product or service, this code is instrumental to be known. However, this is a general code that means that it is to be applied generally to all other broadcasts and not particularly Doordarshan. The practices which are derogatory to constitutional provisions and law are prohibited to be advertised. The obscenity or defamatory content is not to be advertised. It aims to prevent the promotion of unfair trade practices by advertisement. 

Salient features and objectives 

Advertisements are meant for people. The code for commercial advertisement on Doordarshan was designed for the people. Minimum acceptance of advertisement by society is the objective of the emergence of the code. Good practice of advertisement is the need of the society. What standards should be followed to gain the minimum acceptance of society? The code for commercial advertisement on Doordarshan is the answer to this question. The healthiness of advertisements is promoted by the code. 

The main feature was that the aspect of morality merged by the code for the acceptance by society. The prohibition of advertisements promoting intoxication is one such aspect. 

What does the revised code say

The revised code laid down some standards that must be accomplished by advertisements on Doordarshan. It is a standard code in the advertisement. It states that the advertisement shall follow the laws of the country. It shall not ‘violate the provisions of the Indian Constitution. It provides for some dos and don’ts of advertising practice.

It ensures that the advertisement shall not contain any false claims or facts. They shall not mislead the viewer. They cannot be shown in the form of news unless they contain a ‘super’ titled ‘THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT’. It further provides for the action by the viewer if any of the provisions contained in the code is violated. 

What cannot be advertised 

Attack on race, caste, color, creed, and nationality 

Any advertisement which derides caste, color, creed, and nationality are not allowed to be broadcasted on Doordarshan. The Constitution of India imparts in itself the principle of non-discrimination based on race, caste, color, creed, and nationality. This principle is embedded in the code for commercial advertisements. 

Against constitutional provisions 

The Constitution of India is the fundamental law of the country. No institution can go against the provisions provided in the Indian Constitution. The code for commercial advertisement expressly forbids the advertisement which is against the provisions of the Constitution. 

The Directive Principles of State Policy and other provisions of the Indian Constitution are to be followed by the advertisement. 

Promoting intoxications 

Intoxicants like cigarettes, tobacco, liquor, wines, etc, are prevented from being promoted in advertisements by the code. The key point here is that such products are not stopped from being advertised. But the promotion of such products is prevented. 

Such products are advertised with a caution showing their harmfulness. It makes people aware of the fact of its harmfulness. This prevents the advertisement from promoting such products and leaving it on the choice of people, either to get aware or to take the risk of taking them. 

Promoting violence or crime 

The incitement of criminality or violence among people is another prevention that must be followed while advertising any product. 

Adversely affecting relations with foreign states 

Any such advertisement which may harm the relations of India with any other foreign state is prevented from being advertised on Doordarshan. 

Attacking national symbols or leaders 

An advertisement which adversely affects the position of the national emblem is prohibited by the code. Leaders and state dignitaries shall not be depicted wrongly in the advertisements. 

Attacking religion  

Advertisements attacking any religion or religious feeling of people are prohibited to be advertised. God or Prophet of any religion shall not be depicted in a wrong manner in any advertisement. 

Promoting the submissiveness of women 

Any such advertisement that depicts the derogatory image of women is prohibited to be advertised according to the code for commercial advertisement. It prohibits advertisements that depict women as submissive or having a secondary role in society. Nothing obscene about women can be the content of advertisements on Doordarshan. 

Having political ends 

The advertisement having any political end is not allowed to be broadcasted. The object of the advertisement shall not promote any political means. 

Misleading educational institutions 

The advertisement of such educational institutions which may mislead students is prevented from being broadcasted by the code. The advertised educational institutions shall be genuine. 

Providing any guarantee 

The terms like ‘guarantee’ or ‘guaranteed’ shall not be used unless there are specific terms regarding the guarantee of the product or service advertised. Such guarantee shall be provided in writing to the consumer and there shall also be terms of getting remedy in case of any default or damage. 

Irrelevant data or scientific jargons

The data that is to be advertised shall be relevant. Any scientific fact attached to the advertisement shall also be relevant and true. If the scientific facts that are used in an advertisement are not true then the advertisement is not allowed to be advertised according to the code. Such facts must be used with a sense of responsibility. 

Content that adversely affects children 

Children can be misled very easily. The code for commercial advertisement on Doordarshan prevents any such advertisement that leads the children to believe that if they do not buy any product, then, they are inferior to someone. Children cannot be influenced to believe that it is their duty or loyalty to buy any product or make other persons buy that product. 

Children shall not be shown as indulging in begging practices. Any such advertisement which endangers the life or safety of the children is prohibited. For example, if in any advertisement, children are shown as playing in the middle of the road then it can be dangerous as they can do the same. 

Superstitious content

Advertisements predicting any superstitious belief are not promoted to be broadcasted on Doordarshan. Such advertisements may mislead people. It shall not be depicted that any product advertised is having some supernatural property. 

Some specific services 

Advertisement related to the following specific services are prohibited on Doordarshan: 

  • Moneylenders; 
  • Chit funds; 
  • Lotteries; 
  • Unlicensed employment services; 
  • Matrimonial agencies; 
  • Services which claim of hypnotism, such as fortune-telling; 
  • Foreign food and bank; 
  • Games of chance, such as horse racing or betting. 

Other procedures and guidelines to be followed according to the revised code 

The Code for Commercial Advertisement on Doordarshan is not the sole code that determines the advertising laws on Doordarshan. Other laws also determine the nature of advertising. The Code for Commercial Advertisement itself extends the scope of the code to follow those laws. The laws which are expressly provided to be followed according to the code are as follows: 

General AIR/TV Code 

The provisions of the General AIR/TV Code are to be followed for advertising according to the Code. The provisions of the code that shall be not advertised include as follows: 

  • Attacking our country’s relations with any foreign country by criticizing it; 
  • Attacking any particular religion; 
  • Content which is obscene or defamatory; 
  • Inciting violence or crime; 
  • Contempt of court; 
  • Against the dignity and integrity of the President and Judiciary; 
  • Against the dignity of the nation; 
  • Criticizing any particular person. 

Consumer Protection Act, 1986

The code prescribes to follow the provision of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Section 6 of the Act provides the right of consumers to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, standard, and price of products or services. This right makes sure that consumers are to be informed about the facts of the product. 

Section 2(1)(r) of the Act also provides that any such advertisement that misrepresents the facts or is false, comes under “unfair trade practices” which is forbidden by the Act. 

Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act, 1960 

Any such advertisement which shows animals, as to be treated cruelly or in an insensitive manner, is to be prohibited from being broadcasted according to the code as it violates the objective and provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act of 1960

Such practice may create a behavior of cruelty for animals. It may mislead people. Such practices are prohibited by law. 

Standards for advertising of medicines and treatments 

The code provides for the code of standards about the advertising of medicines and treatments. The code expressly provides to follow the standards set out by this code. It can be very harmful to anyone if any misleading fact about any medicine is advertised. This code was introduced by this view to preventing any such harm. 

The criticism raised and problems faced 

The Code for Commercial Advertisement on Doordarshan somehow restricts the broadcast of every type of advertisement by providing specified standards. These restrictions were criticized on the aspect of restricting the constitutional right of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)[a] of the Indian Constitution. The right of speech and expression is not absolute in its form. It is qualified by reasonable restrictions by the State provided under Article 19(2). Reasonable restrictions could be imposed by the State on the following conditions: 

  • Interest of sovereignty; 
  • The interest of the integrity of India; 
  • Ties with foreign states; 
  • Public order; 
  • Decency and morality; 
  • Contempt of court; 
  • Defamation; 
  • Incitement of an offence. 

In the case of Hamdard Dawakshana v Union of India, 1960, the SC observed that there is a distinction between commercial advertisement and advertisement aimed at expression and propagation of ideas. And the full protection of Article 19(1)(a) is available only to advertisements aimed at expression and propagation of ideas. Commercial advertisements are not completely protected under this Article. 

This case legalized the restriction imposed on commercial advertisements. It was criticized on the point of constitutional rights concerning commercial advertisements. 

In the case of Tata Press v Mahanagar Telephone Limited and Others, 1995, the SC observed that commercial speech cannot be denied to be deemed as the right of freedom of speech and expression. The public also has the right to receive that commercial speech. 

Thus, the problem and criticism raised on the code was the large number of restrictions imposed on the commercial advertisement which can be seen as conflicting with the constitutional right of freedom of speech and expression. 

Conclusion

The unfair trade practices mislead people and may even harm them. Such practices are promoted by false advertisements. Stopping such practices is the need of the hour. The code for commercial advertisement provides many such provisions to prevent the promotion of such practices. But the advertisements are still misleading people in many ways. They influence the mind of people. Is the provision of the code enough to prevent such practices? Such questions are in need to be further expanded. 

References

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