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    Tuesday, 27 September 2011

    Delays mar initiation of Punjab Censor Board

    Seven months have gone by since the 18th Amendment Implementation Commission decided to devolve the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) to provinces.
    However, uncertainty still surrounds the formulation of an independent censor board in Punjab. Although Sindh’s culture department got its film censor board in April, a question mark still hangs over the initiation of the provincial board in Punjab.  According to sources close to the CBFC, a bill that would have transferred all powers and paved way for the formation of the censor board in Punjab, has been pending in the Punjab Assembly for quite some time now.
    “The federal censor board sent the bill to the Punjab Assembly months ago; the ball is now in their court — we can only wait till it’s approved,” says an official, on the condition of anonymity. The official explains that major preparations had been made for the Assembly, although there were disagreements regarding the number of people who should be involved in the provincial censor board.
    According to the 18th Amendment Implemen-tation Commission, censors will be placed according to provincial approval and each film will have to attain separate approval for each province. For example, if a producer has a film censored in Islamabad (which is a separate federal territory outside Punjab’s jurisdiction) this particular bar will only be applicable in Islamabad. Meanwhile, approval for films in Punjab will be valid for that province only.
    To ease the transition, the federal censor board has provided two six-month supplementary budgets to the Punjab government to help with funding, since finances for the new board have not been allocated in the current budget.
    So far, the Punjab government has held a series of meetings with leading producers, actors and directors, hoping to develop entertainment-friendly policies. The contention of local producers and directors is that foreign films — specifically Indian ones — have led to the overall decline of the industry.
    Hence, the assumption is that a devolved censor board will provide greater access and interaction with government functionaries, which will further help regulate international films — especially those from India.
    With local films like Bhai LogLove Mein Ghum and Jugni generating hype around Eid, many producers and film personalities demanded a ban of Indian films on the Eid weekend. However, despite promises by the Punjab government, no action was taken. Screenwriter Pervaiz Kaleem felt that the government had let the film industry down by not settling this issue. “We have no other option but to wait until the government issues a notification,” laments Kaleem.
    Cinema owners, on the other hand, contend that Indian films garner more ticket sales than local films and without foreign films, sales decline to the point that running a cinema is difficult.
    Meanwhile, explaining the dilemma that the Punjab government is in, TV actor and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) cultural wing head Kanwal says that the alarming spread of dengue in Lahore has shifted Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s focus. She states that once the ordeal ends, efforts to get the legislation cleared in the Assembly will regain momentum and move towards the appointment of the chairman of the provincial censor board.  “We were supposed to have a meeting with the film industry representatives on September 8, but other issues had taken preference due to the dengue epidemic,” says Kanwal. “For us, the ideal situation is that someone from the film industry itself is appointed as the head of the board once it’s formulated.”
    Kanwal adds that the PML-N government had initiated several pro-entertainment initiatives, which will help not only entertainers, but also help revive entertainment in the province. Speaking about that issue of foreign films, she said that it was important to encourage competition in the film industry as, this will help it grow in the long run.
    “If you produce quality films they’ll do well, the idea should be not to complain but to compete,” states Kanwal referring to the reported success of films such as Bhai Log and Love Mein Ghum.
    Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2011.

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