Two pieces of information got me thinking about censorship in India — Niranjana’s post on banned books and news that the Government of India (GOI) was taking action against Neo Sports.

Let me restate – my Neo Sports post on their advertisements on the West Indies tour stated that I personally found the ads tasteless and borderline racist. I also stated that I don’t think racism was the intent behind them. And that I thought it was silly for a company to build a brand using the ad since it offended a section of their customers.

Today, Srini very kindly updated me (thanks, Srini!) that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry headed by Priya Ranjan Das Munshi has slapped a show cause notice on the channel asking it to explain itself.

What?? The way this should be moderated is by the market. If the public expresses their dissatisfaction to Neo Sports, that’s fine. If their shareholders hold them accountable, that’s fine. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is redefining its bounds by overstepping them constantly. They’ve banned the Gandhi YouTube video, they briefly banned all blogspot.com domains, and they banned AXN Channel for showing “The World’s Sexiest Ads”.

Er, hello? No one is being forced to view any of these. Hate the YouTube video? Don’t watch it. AXN is a private channel that users pay for. If they don’t like the show, they will stop subscribing. The GOI has no business being in the censorship business – if they want, they can be in the ratings business. Slap an X or R rating on things, but let the consumer choose. Repeat after me, Mr. Priya Ranjan Das Munshi – the market, the market, the market.

Here’s what I said to Niranjana –

The Indian Government is just insane. That’s why they ban things at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t matter what it is – books, movies, ads, whatever.

They are SO super-sensitive and want to avoid upsetting *anyone* that they ride roughshod over free speech. I think India is a terrible country to be an artist of any kind. You are subject to the whims of bureaucrats who are more concerned with not ruffling feathers than allowing artists to push the boundaries.

Aaargh. Yes, a pet peeve of mine…