An independent censor board in Punjab has been devolved on paper, however no funds have been allocated in the latest budget and little is known as to what mechanisms have been actually devised to run the board.
According to insiders, the federal censor board is still conducting the current censors while the Punjab government, under its mandate, has initiated preliminary meetings with leading members of the film industry to develop a structure for the new board. Despite this, funds have not been allocated in the latest budget to create the board, leaving many people wondering whether the board will be formulated anytime soon.
Furthermore, a Punjab government official said that the Punjab government would be expecting the federal government to provide funding for the board, as the current government is short on resources. He clarified that if that did not occur, then other funding methods would have to be devised. “It is likely that there will be a tug of war because the provincial government will expect the federal government to give the resources to fund the board,” said the official. “Also, there is a lot more to this because the provincial government will also want to increase its mandate regarding foreign films and the approval of domestic films.”
Despite the delays, leading members of the entertainment industry are hopeful that the devolution will provide better forum for directors and producers to interact. Famed director and scriptwriter Syed Noor told The Express Tribune that, in the brief meeting that had taken place with the Punjab government, his recommendation was for someone from the film industry who had technical knowledge regarding films to run the board. “In India, people like Sharmila Tagore have headed such institutions so its important that we include people with a technical background,” said Noor. “For us, the devolution is positive because the government and politicians are easier to access at the provincial level.”
He said that the there had not been any detailed meeting regarding the formulation of the board but he had told the government that the film industry had to be taken on board for the formulation of a censor board.
Veteran actor Ghulam Mohiuddin added that the 18th amendment devolution plan was a positive development, regardless of how long its take to work out the details because there will be a form of checks and balances. “There were allegations of corruption with the central board and the hope is that the now, with powers given to the provincial government, a form of equality and fairness will occur,” said Mohiuddin. “We have been told that the details regarding films and the industry as whole will be discussed in detail soon.”
Farah Deeba, a member of the Culture and Youth Affairs Committee and Member of Provincial Assembly explained that the Punjab government had held preliminary meetings with Hamza Shabaz Sharif regarding the newly devolved culture related ministries and boards. She said that she had been tasked with the duty of developing a committee of five to six people from the film industry who would develop the censor board and help with the promotion of the film industry. “We have had an initial meeting regarding the issue, but now we have to meet with the chief minister to decide how to proceed with the formation of the board.”
The other major development she hinted at was going to revolve around the board’s mandate. According to Deeba, the 18th amendment provided the Punjab government with the authority to look after all the major aspects of film censoring. This meant that it is likely that Indian and foreign films would eventually also become part of the Punjab censor boards tasks.
Despite this, the initial question of funding remained unanswered. Deeba had asserted that the Punjab government had forgiven the entertainment tax on for stage but said no discussion regarding the actual budget for the censor board had taken place to date.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2011.
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