For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
By Olindhi Jayasundere
The present censorship on the telecasting of television programmes showing the use of alcohol or cigarettes will be removed and instead from Thursday a complete ban will be imposed on the telecasting of such programmes, the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol said yesterday.
These new rules will be introduced in accordance with the provisions of the NATA Act.
NATA Chairman Carlo Fonseka said in the case of programmes which were produced before the date on which the NATA Act became operative — December 1, 2006 – where there were practical difficulties in deleting such scenes, the TV channels would be permitted to show such programmes under certain conditions.
“In the full 20 seconds preceding the start of the programme, TV channels should air the opening message provided by NATA without any deletions or comments. Whenever smoking or drinking scenes appear during a programme, the appropriate message provided by NATA should be aired occupying not less than 1/5th of the screen,” Prof. Fonseka said.
He said a programme originally produced in a particular language but is subtitled or dubbed in another language, the NATA messages should be shown in the language which the programme is dubbed or subtitled.
Prof. Foneseka said the appropriate message should be telecast for the full duration depicting the smoking or drinking scenes and that some of the messages would be shown with images of ailments caused by cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption.
Sri Lanka Medical Association Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya said that the new regulations were likely to be far more effective than the censorship on scenes showing alcohol and cigarette consumption, which has been in effect since 2006.
“Images of alcohol and cigarette use have increased dramatically in television programmes in the past few years. Research has shown that these images have a vast impact on viewers, especially young people. Our aim is to prevent the consumption of alcohol and cigarettes,” Dr. Rajasuriya said.
Meanwhile more than 50 teledrama producers have assured they would in future produce teledramas without any scenes showing the use of alcohol or cigarettes.