Bangladesh govt tags conditions to airing talk shows

NewAge, September 20, 2007

Some private television channels have resumed airing talk shows after a gap of about a month. The airing of such talk shows had been suspended at a government instruction since August 22 when curfew was ordered of six divisional headquarters. The channels are, however, conducting the shows in accordance with certain ‘conditions’ set by the government.
Others are still hesitant to host such shows.

The information adviser, Mainul Hosein, on Monday called the top officials of the channels to his secretariat office and handed in the guideline printed on plain paper. ‘Mainul Hosein called us to his office and handed in a written guideline for hosting talk shows,’ Channel i director Shykh Seraj told New Age on Wednesday. ‘The guideline was not printed on letterhead. It was a plain sheet of paper and not signed,’ he said.

The informal guideline includes nine conditions:
‘The unplanned and uncontrolled airing of talk shows on different television channels has created an adverse impact on the socio-economic condition of the country… The airing of talk shows can again be allowed now only if the “conditions” mentioned below are adhered to.
‘A. Each channel can air the highest of 2 to 3 talk shows a week. It is better to air a single talk show in a day.
‘B. Talk shows will need to be “edited.” No talk shows can be aired live.
‘C. Talk shows cannot have interactive discussions or live SMS or phone-in.
‘D. Inviting the same guest repeatedly is to be discouraged.
‘E. Enough care should be taken in the selection of guests for talk shows. Noted thinkers, intellectuals, academics, and businessmen can be invited. Panels of guests should comprise people of various ideals.
‘F. Emphasis should be given on constructive criticism and giving realistic and specific suggestions.
‘G. Development, constructive, cultural, economic, social, religious and educational issues should be emphasised in talk shows. But any discussion harmful to cultural, economic, social and religious values should be avoided.
‘H. Any kinds of instigating, blind and biased opinions, and statements that can create resentment towards the legitimate government of Bangladesh should also be avoided.
‘I. Leading questions that can steer discussants towards a prefixed objective should be avoided. Guests should be given more time to speak by keeping the atmosphere congenial.’

Asked if the guideline has been officially imposed, the information secretary, Didarul Anwar, told New Age on Wednesday, ‘It is an informal guideline.’ The NTV chief news editor, Khairul Anwar, said he had received a copy of the guideline.

The Channel 1 chief news editor, Nazmul Ashraf, said, ‘We have been told that it is an unofficial guideline and we are to follow it.’

The Bangla Vision executive director, Aminur Rashid, said, ‘We are yet to make any decision on resuming talk shows…. We are assessing to what extent we can follow the guideline.’

The top official of another television channel said, ‘They [the government] have tagged some conditions to resuming talk shows. But they are not shouldering any responsibility.’

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