India pulls plug on 'vulgar' ads

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NEW DELHI -- Two television ads for underwear were banned in India for being "indecent, vulgar and suggestive," broadcast regulators said Friday.

The TV commercial for Amul Macho Underwear shows a young housewife suggestively washing her husband's underwear on a riverbank as other women eye her curiously. The Lux Cozy Underwear ad shows a man with only a towel wrapped around him answering the door where he is met by a young woman. The towel slips and the woman's eyes gaze downwards

After airing for months and stirring up a heated public debate, both ads were banned for violating Rule 7 (8) of the Advertising Code under 1995's Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, the New Delhi-based Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry said.

In early June, the Mumbai-based Advertising Standards Councils of India cleared the ad following complaints from viewers. In its statement, the ASCI's Consumer Complaint Cell concluded: "the advertisement was not so obscene as to give rise to grave or widespread offense."

However, Friday's notification by the I&B Ministry overrules the ASCI's clearance, which means the two commercials will be pulled from the air.

The I&B Ministry's notification also cautioned channels "to be more careful in future in selection of content of advertisements and to strictly adhere to the advertisement code prescribed under the CTNR Act 1995."

Earlier this year, the I&B Ministry issued temporary bans to two channels, France-based Fashion TV and Sony Entertainment Television's AXN, for broadcasting programming considered offensive. The bans were revoked after the channels issued apologies.

Content regulation is the topic of an intense ongoing debate between representatives of the government and industry who met early this week in New Delhi to discuss a proposed content code and a broadcast bill (HR 7/24) that seeks to establish a broadcasting regulatory authority on the lines of Ofcom in the U.K. and the FCC in the U.S.

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