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PEMRA up in arms over biscuit ad

Pakistan debates ‘decent’ television content

SAMAA | - Posted: Oct 7, 2020 | Last Updated: 12 months ago
Posted: Oct 7, 2020 | Last Updated: 12 months ago

Photo: SAMAA Digital

A recently released biscuit advertisement has opened a debate on social media on whether it should be aired on TV. It has been criticised for what some people were choosing to describe as “indecent content.” Many others disagreed. Twitter fights broke out.

The advertisement features actor Mehwish Hayat, who represents the culture and tradition of the four provinces through dance and colourful outfits. The ad is based on the theme Des Ke Qissay, which aims to show the uniqueness and diversity of the country, with the message apne des ka har rung nirala which translates into “every shade of this country is unique”.  

Hayat has been facing criticism but chose to shut down the trolls with a tweet.

“I don’t need your approval, darling. I have my own!” she tweeted.

Related: Everyone is an online stalker, even Mehwish Hayat

Last year, she responded to criticism on her song Gangster Guriya in the movie Baaji.    

“To do these dance numbers has been my choice. As an actress and performer it is my job. As a woman I find my work empowering. Dance to me is aesthetically the purest form of art,” she wrote in a tweet.  

The outrage over the biscuit advertisement began with a tweet from conservative journalist Ansar Abbasi, who deemed it inappropriate and questioned the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority’s role in policing such content.

Social media users were quick to take sides; some labeled the ad an item song, while others didn’t find anything wrong with it.

“Cannot believe I have lived long enough to see a world in which one of the things that is controversial is an ad for […] biscuits?” read a tweet.

“The […] biscuit ad is banned for being indecent. So, women fully clothed, dancing is “indecent” but women being gang raped, denied justice and being blamed for it by the authorities is not. The govt has really got its priorities straight,” wrote another.

Politicians were also divided on this issue. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said the premier is “against such anti-Islamic stuff.”

“PM Imran Khan is totally against such anti-Islamic stuff on media which is against our cultural norms and has damaging effects on our youth. No place for such absurdity in an Islamic state, which was made on the Kalima Tayyaba,” he wrote on Twitter.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry, while taking a jibe at both Abbasi and Khan, asked why they were always searching for immodesty. He advised them to do something productive instead.  

Recently, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, during an interview with Ansar Abbasi, claimed that, “the premier is extremely concerned about the ‘growing obscenity and vulgarity’ in society and has directed all relevant sections to check the trend before it destroys the socio-religious values of Pakistani society.”

Earlier, Pemra issued an advisory to broadcasters and advertisers urging them to develop TVCs that correspond with the actual nature and purpose of the product being marketed.

“It has been observed with concerns that themes of advertisements of ordinary consumer products like biscuits, surf, etc. being aired on satellite TV channels are not corresponding with the disposition of these products,” the notice read.  

It stated that, “the trend is causing unrest and behavioural disturbance among the viewers, being not only in violation of the commonly accepted standards of decency but also the socio-cultural norms of Pakistani society.”

The notice particularly required all stakeholders to review the content of the advertisement.

Pemra said it has been receiving complaints from viewers on social media and WhatsApp for allowing satellite TV channels to air such “indecent” advertisements.

“Pertinently, viewers are of the view that airing advertisements regarding general consumer products like biscuits in such a bizarre manner where the visuals do not commensurate with the use of the products is unwarranted and needs to be looked into,” it stated.  “In addition to this, complainants are of the opinion that the presentation of the products in such manner is wittingly or unwittingly merely aiming to promote consumerism,” the notice added.

This is not the first time the product is being marketed in this way. A similar biscuit advertisement was released in 2013, featuring former actor Noor Bukhari. The difference was, perhaps, back then social media wasn’t as huge an influence as it is today.

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