India to ban 'vulgar' fashion TV

New Delhi - The Indian government has decided to ban France-based Fashion Television for broadcasting "vulgarity", Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Ramesh Bais said on Tuesday.

"A decision to this effect was taken yesterday at a meeting in New Delhi," said Bais, quoted by the Press Trust of India.

He said the 24-hour channel would soon be off the air and that action was already being taken to stop broadcasts.

"Any programme against Indian culture will not be tolerated," he added.

India's coalition government is dominated by Hindu nationalist parties who come under daily pressure from fundamentalist groups to crack down on anything deemed to be an invasion of Western culture.

This week Hindu nationalist groups have already railed against February 14's Valentine's Day and mobs have smashed up some shops selling Valentine cards. New Year celebrations and beauty pageants have also been attacked.

The offensive against Fashion TV, which is popular among young Indians living in big cities, was launched in January by Sushma Swaraj, a Hindu hard-liner and Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

"It (FTV) does not synchronise with our culture," she was quoted as saying.

"I am getting it monitored for a week. After that we will show highlights to the parliamentary consultative committee so that a joint decision can be taken," Swaraj said.

FTV is beamed from Singapore and its distribution in India is controlled by its local partner, B4U, under an agreement reached in May last year.

The programming on FTV includes fashion shows, showcasing the latest in haute couture by a host of international designers.

Critics say the pictures of skimpily dressed models are nothing more than voyeurism, but several well-known Indian designers such as Ritu Beri have their collections featured on the channel.

The campaign to ban FTV has met with anger in some sections of India's media, with an editorial in the Hindustan Times last weekend railing against India's "Nipple Police".

The French embassy has urged dialogue between FTV bosses and the information ministry to look at parts of the programming which "may not be compatible with Indian culture".

FTV executives are due in India next week for meetings.

During a previous stint at the information ministry, Swaraj banned the use of telephone sex chatlines. - Sapa-AFP

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