GUEST POST: DHWANI BHINDE: NCPCR REGULATORY GUIDELINES FOR CHILD PARTICIPATION IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY OR ANY COMMERCIAL ENTERTAINMENT ACTIVITY- PART 2

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This part of the article will focus mainly on the compliances required to be adhered to by the News and Media agencies and advertising agencies. Additionally, this part will also briefly cover the powers of the enforcement authorities mentioned under the New Guidelines. The first part of the article can be accessed here.

  1. Portrayal of minors in the News and Media:

The provisions drafted under Chapter 6 of the New Guidelines aim to protect the identity of minors who are in conflict with the law, juveniles, children in disadvantageous situations, children in need of special care etc. News and media agencies covering the issues which directly or indirectly have minors embroiled in a situation or an incident which puts them in vulnerable position will have to comply with the provisions mentioned below:

1.1. Minors who are victims of rape, sexual offences or are involved in trafficking, drug or substance abuse, elopement, organized crimes and children used in armed conflicts, child witnesses etc. have to be automatically granted anonymity for life. This provision is derived from Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and non-compliance with the same is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or a fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or both.

1.2. News agencies are explicitly prohibited from sensationalizing the news and further portraying the category of minors mentioned above in a manner which may have harmful consequences for these minors. This provision is derived from Section 23 of the POCSO Act, 2012 which makes the publisher or the owner of such organization flouting this provision jointly and severally liable against any acts committed by their employee in contravention of Section 23 of the POCSO Act, 2012.

1.3. In the event, that any news or media agency wishes to conduct an interview of the minor, the undermentioned provisions have to be followed:

  • News media organizations have to ensure the best interest of the child in mind while conducting the interview and further such interview should not aggravate the situation of the child;
  • A parent/or a legal guardian of the child has to wilfully assent to such interview being conducted and the same has to be done under their supervision;
  • Strict anonymity of the minor has to be maintained and no information can be disclosed either directly or indirectly which threatens their anonymity;
  • Neither the parent/ legal guardian nor the child shall be placed under any coercion or be enticed with any financial benefits for securing an interview with the minor.
  1. Compliances by Advertisement Agencies:

Interestingly the provisions which the advertisement agencies are expected to adhere to under these New Guidelines have been taken from the notification dated 9th June 2022 released by the Central Consumer Protection Authority for preventing false and misleading advertisements (“CCPA Notification”) which are already effectuated. Section 8 of CCPA Notifications deals with the provisions with respect to advertisements targeted specifically towards children. Section 8 of the CCPA Notifications is summarized below:

An advertisement that addresses or targets or uses children should not:

  • condone, encourage, inspire or unreasonably emulate behaviour that could be dangerous for children or take advantage of children’s inexperience, credulity or sense of loyalty;
  • exaggerate the features of products in such a manner as to lead children to have unrealistic expectationsof such products or condone or encourage practices that are detrimental to children’s physical health or mental wellbeing;
  • imply that children are likely to be ridiculed or made to feel inferior to others or become less popular or disloyal if they do not purchase or make use of such products;
  • include a direct exhortation to children to purchase any product or to persuade their parents, guardians or other persons to purchase such products;
  • use qualifiers such as “just” or “only” to make the price seem less expensive where such advertisement includes additional cost or charge;
  • feature children for advertisements prohibited by any law for the time being in force, including tobacco or alcohol-based products;
  • feature personalities from the field of sports, music or cinema for products that under any law requires a health warning for such advertisement or cannot be purchased by children;
  • make it difficult for children to judge the size, characteristics and performance of advertised products and to distinguish between real-life situations and fantasy;
  • exaggerate what is attainableby an ordinary child using the product being marketed;
  • exploit children’s susceptibility to charitable appeals and shall explain the extent to which their participation will help in any charity-linked promotions;
  • resort to promotions that require a purchase to participate and include a direct exhortation to make a purchase addressed to or targeted at children;
  • claim that consumption of a product advertised shall have an effect on enhancing intelligence or physical abilityor bring exceptional recognition without any valid substantiation or adequate scientific evidence;
  • claim any health or nutritional claims or benefits without being adequately and scientifically substantiated by a recognized body;
  • be published in any mass media, including advertisements which are adverse to the physical and mental health of children;
  • be such as to develop negative body imagein children;
  • give any impression that a product is better than the natural or traditional food which children may be consuming;
  • should not offer promotional gifts to persuade childrento buy something without necessity or promotes illogical consumerism;
  • Furthermore, an advertisement for junk foods, including chips, carbonated beverages and other such snacks and drinks should not be advertised during a program meant for children or on a channel meant exclusively for children.

Quoting the conclusion mentioned in Part 1 of the article, while these New Guidelines may not have been effectuated by NCPCR as of now, it is quite important for the stakeholders in the media and entertainment to be mindful of the fact that:

  • The penalties prescribed in the New Guidelines correspond to the penalties which have been already prescribed in the legislations governing the interests of minors and non-adherence to these legislations will attract penalties should there be any complaints made to the District Magistrate or the NCPCR or the SCPCR (State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights) of the respective state Accordingly, the jurisdiction and scope of District Magistrates in protecting the rights of minors have been elaborated from the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, Child Labour Amendment Act, 2016, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, Child and Adolescent Labour Act, 1986 and Child and Adolescent Labour Rules, 2017 etc.
  • NCPCR and SCPCR have been mandated to ensure that legislations governing the minors are implemented effectively. Apart from inquiring into complaints, these authorities also have the right to take suo moto actions against defaulting parties.

In addition to these provisions, there has been an overall emphasis on sensitizing the organizations and individuals dealing with minors in the media and entertainment industry and making the parents/legal guardians aware of their rights should there be any organization/person violating the right of minors under their care and protection.

Image source : here

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