Broadcasting code on anvil -- III

IN Law and Policy | 24/06/2006
Self regulation proposed for news and current affairs—code pronounces on impartiality, taste, privacy, minors, etc.



Radio and Television news has greater reach and impact than other media. It is instantly available in millions of homes to both the educated, discerning audiences as well as the illiterate and non -discerning audiences. With ever increasing number of round the clock news channels and the intense competition among them for the eyeballs and changing priorities as to what constitute news, news and current affairs contents of television call for some discipline with specific guidelines.  We need to be aware that a damage or injustice resulting from news and current affairs contents of television cannot be undone post facto.  Hence, there is a need for having deliberate and transparent guidelines and standards for news programming that need to be followed scrupulously by all.

Radio and TV are different media with different audiences and both types of electronic media should consider, make strategy to, and, comply with, general community standards of decency and civility. Utmost care and caution needs to be exercised by news and current affairs (N & CA channels) in their audio-visual presentations and selection of themes.

This chapter is in addition to the other provisions of this Code.  N& CA Channels will also adhere to all other chapters of the Code.



Broadcasters shall observe general community standards of decency and civility in news content and scheduling, taking particular care to protect the interests and sensitivities of children and general family viewing.

To ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. Great care and sensitivity should be exercised to avoid shocking, offending or misleading the audience.

¿Due¿ is an important qualification to the concept of impartiality. Impartiality itself means not favoring one side over another. ¿Due¿ means adequate or appropriate to the subject and nature of the programme. So ¿due impartiality¿ does not mean an equal division of time has to be given to every view, or that every argument and every facet of every argument has to be represented. The approach to ¿due impartiality¿ may vary according to the nature of the subject, the type of programme and channel or service, the likely expectation of the audience as to content, and the extent to which the content and approach is signaled to the audience. Context, as defined in Chapter I and Section dealing with Harm and Offence of Chapter III: of the Code, is important.


1.1     News, in whatever form, should be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. Any mistakes in news should be acknowledged and corrected on air, maximum within a week after coming to notice of the mistake. Corrections and apology should be scheduled appropriately and also in the same time band where the initial error had occurred.

Accuracy requires the verification (to the fullest extent possible) and presentation of all facts that are necessary to understand a particular event or issue, even if some of the facts conflict with a BSP/journalist¿s beliefs and feelings. 

Balance, or impartiality, requires the presentation of all the main points of view or interpretations of an event or an issue, regardless of whether the BSP, reporter, editor or the audience agrees with these views.

1.2     News should be well balanced and the BSP shall endeavor that news is comprehensive.  Factual material is presented accurately and all viewpoints represented fairly. Commentary and analysis shall be clearly distinguished in the news and actual news should precede the commentary and analysis.

1.3     Views and facts must not be misrepresented. Views must also be presented with due weight over appropriate timeframes. In presenting Talk Shows/ Discussions on any issue of public importance, views both for and against must be present in a balanced manner, truly, objectively and impartially.

1.4     Any personal interest of a reporter or presenter, which would call into question the due impartiality of the programme, must be made clear to the audience.

1.5     Good taste should guide the selection and presentation of news. Morbid, sensational, or alarming details not essential to factual reporting should be avoided.

1.6     No material should be presented in any manner that creates public panic and unnecessary alarm; Ensure that nothing is broadcast which is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or to be offensive to public feeling.

1.7     No advertising matter shall be offered as news or included in the content of a news programme or newsreel.

1.8     Any scene/clipping/ footage depicting excessive violence, nudity, obscenity and vulgarity that is not suitable of viewing by children and in family settings must be avoided;

1.9     News covering scenes of crime, violence, national tragedy and obscurantist supernatural practices should be dealt with utmost objectivity and sensitivity and not with a view to trivialize, sensationalize or glorify them.

1.10    BSP should not give undue prominence to the views and opinions of particular persons or bodies on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy.

1.11    Tools of fiction like music and animation used to whip up emotions blur the line between entertainment & news. For any fictional picturization of news and events or/and repackaging with fictional elements, the yardsticks applicable to the program will be similar to non-news and currents affairs guidelines mentioned in this broadcasting code 

1.12    Simulated news (for example, in drama or in documentaries) must be broadcast in such a way that there is no reasonable possibility of the audience being misled into believing that they are listening to, or watching, actual news.

1.13    While reporting violent events, natural calamities and accidents, appropriate regard must be paid to the feelings of relatives and viewers and inclusion of images of dead or seriously wounded people or gruesome and gory scenes, which may seriously distress or offend substantial number of viewers, should not be included in the telecast; The feelings and sensitivities of grieving relatives or the injured must be respected and interviews avoided.

1.14    The dead should be treated with respect and not shown unless there are compelling reasons for doing so.  Close ups of faces and serious injuries in case of disasters/riots etc. should be avoided;

1.15    Broadcasters shall advise viewers in advance of showing scenes of extra-ordinary violence, or graphic reporting on delicate subject matter such as sexual assault or court action related to sexual crimes, particularly during newscasts and updates when children could be viewing. Senior editorial control must be exercised for selecting material in relation to telecast of violent events, accidents and natural calamities;

1.16    Language, which could incite to violence, disorder or hatred must not be used. The gratuitous use of language likely to offend must be avoided when images depicting human tragedy of excessive violence or audio material are telecast, warning both, oral and visual must precede the telecast;     

1.17    News should not jeopardize the security of the nation and care should be taken that news sessions are in the interest of the nation. All plans for a broadcast which explores and exposes the views of people who use or advocate violence for the achievement of political ends must be considered carefully by senior editorial / management before any arrangements for broadcasting are made.

1.18  News should not jeopardize any ongoing criminal investigations and should exercise due care in such cases.

1.19   BSP¿s should avoid a trial by media since  "a man is innocent till proven guilty by law". In such cases care should be taken to present both sides of the story and present a balanced view.

No specific guidelines are being prescribed for coverage of elections, as all channels are expected to and are bound by the guidelines prescribed by the Election Commission of India in this regard.



Infringement of privacy in a news based/related programme is important. There have been a slew of programmes where privacy of individuals appears to have been breached in public interest; however public opinion has been divided on this. Therefore, this calls for exercise of great degree of responsibility on part of the BSP, while telecasting any such programs, as may be breaching privacy of individuals. The following the practices set out below will not necessarily avoid a breach of this section. However, failure to follow these practices will constitute a breach of this section of the Code resulting in an unwarranted infringement of privacy. Importantly, the Code does not and cannot seek to set out all the ¿practices to be followed¿ in order to avoid an unwarranted infringement of privacy. Channels mounting "sting operations" with use of hidden cameras and recording devices are required to strictly adhere to the rules prescribed below.


To ensure that the BSP avoid any unwarranted infringement of privacy in news based/related programs and in connection with obtaining material included in such programs.


2.1      Channels must not use material relating to persons personal or private affairs or which invades an individuals¿ privacy unless there is an identifiable public interest reason for the material to be broadcast.

2.2     Senior editorial control must be exercised for selecting material in issues relating to privacy and intrusion into affairs;

2.3     Any infringement of privacy in news based/related programmes, or in connection with obtaining material included in such programmes, must be warranted.

In this section ¿warranted¿ has a particular meaning. It means that where the Licensee wishes to justify an infringement of privacy as warranted, it should be able to demonstrate why in the particular circumstances of the case, it is warranted. If the reason is that it is in the public interest, then the Licensee should be able to demonstrate that the public interest outweighs the right to privacy. Examples of public interest would include revealing or detecting crime, protecting public health, or safety, exposing misleading claims made by individuals or organizations or disclosing incompetence that affects the public.

Legitimate expectations of privacy will vary according to the place and nature of the information, activity or condition in question, the extent to which it is in the public domain (if at all) and whether the individual concerned is already in the public eye. There may be circumstances where people can reasonably expect privacy even in a public place. Some activities and conditions may be of such a private nature that filming or recording, even in a public place, could involve an infringement of privacy.

2.2       Information, which discloses the location of a person¿s home or family, should not be revealed without permission, unless it is warranted.

2.3       With regard to minors, victims of rape and sexual crimes greatest care should be taken to protect their identity.

2.4     The BSP should ensure that words, images or actions filmed or recorded in, or broadcast from, a public place, are not so private that prior consent is required before broadcast from the individual or organization concerned, unless broadcasting without their consent is warranted.

Where consent is referred to in this section, it refers to informed consent.

2.5     Any infringement of privacy in the making of a news based/related programme should be with the person¿s and/or organization¿s consent or be otherwise warranted.

If the broadcast of a news based/related programme would infringe the privacy of a person or organization, consent should be obtained before the relevant programme is broadcast, unless the infringement of privacy is warranted. (Callers to phone-in shows are deemed to have given consent to the broadcast of their contribution.)

If an individual or organization¿s privacy is being infringed, and they ask that the filming, recording, or live broadcast be stopped, the BSP should do so, unless it is warranted to continue.

When filming or recording in institutions, organizations, or other agencies, permission should be obtained from the relevant authority or management, unless it is warranted to film or record without permission. Individual consent of employees or others whose appearance is incidental or where they are essentially anonymous members of the public will not normally be required.

However, in potentially sensitive places such as ambulances, hospitals, schools, prisons or police stations, separate consent should normally be obtained before filming or recording and for broadcast from those in sensitive situations (unless not obtaining consent is warranted). If the individual will not be identifiable in the programme then separate consent for broadcast will not be required.

Gathering information, sound, or images

2.6     Scenes of human suffering and distress are often an integral part of any report of the effects of natural disaster, accident or human violence, and may be a proper subject for actuality rather than indirect reporting. But before presenting such scenes, Broadcasters must balance the wish to serve the needs of truth and the desire for compassion against the risk of sensationalism and the possibility of unwarranted invasion of privacy. In particular, while reporting natural or manmade calamities and deaths, the feelings and sensitivities of grieving relatives or the injured must be respected and interviews avoided.

2.7     The means of obtaining material must be proportionate in all the circumstances and in particular to the subject matter of the news based/related programme.

2.8     The BSP should ensure that the reuse of material, i.e. use of material originally filmed or recorded for one purpose and then used in such a programme for another purpose or used in a later or different programme, does not create an unwarranted infringement of privacy. This applies both to material obtained from others and the BSP¿s own material.

2.9     Door stepping for news/ news based programmes should not take place unless a request for an interview has been refused or it has not been possible to request an interview, or there is good reason to believe that an investigation will be frustrated if the subject is approached openly, and it is warranted to doorstep.

Door stepping is the filming or recording of an interview or attempted interview with someone, or announcing that a call is being filmed or recorded for broadcast purposes, without any prior warning. It does not, however, include vox-pops (sampling the views of random members of the public).

2.10    The BSP can record telephone calls between the BSP and the other party if they have, from the outset of the call, identified themselves, explained the purpose of the call and that the call is being recorded for possible broadcast (if that is the case) unless it is warranted not to do one or more of these practices. If at a later stage it becomes clear that a call that has been recorded will be broadcast (but this was not explained to the other party at the time of the call) then the BSP must obtain consent before broadcast from the other party, unless it is warranted not to do so.

2.11    The BSP should be particularly careful not to provide clues which may lead to the identification of those who are, or might be, involved as a victim, witness, defendant or other perpetrator in the case of sexual offences featured in criminal, civil or family court proceedings.


2.12     The BSP should pay particular attention to the privacy of minors. They do not lose their rights to privacy because, for example, of the fame or notoriety of their parents or because of events in their schools.

2.13     Where a programme features a minor in a way that infringes privacy, consent must be obtained from:

(a) a parent, or legal guardian; and 

(b)wherever possible, the individual concerned;

unless the subject matter is trivial or uncontroversial and the participation minor, or it is warranted to proceed without consent.

2.14     Minors should not be questioned about private matters without the consent of a parent or legal guardian unless it is warranted to proceed without consent.

2.15     The Licensee should be particularly careful not to provide clues which may lead to the identification of those who are not yet adult and who are, or might be, involved as a victim, witness, defendant or other perpetrator in the case of sexual offences featured in criminal, civil or family court proceedings.

2.16     When covering any pre-trial investigation into an offence in India, the Licensee should pay particular regard to the potentially vulnerable position of any person who is not yet an adult and who is involved as a witness or victim, before broadcasting their name, address, identity of school or other educational establishment, place of work, or any still or moving picture of them. Particular justification is also required for the broadcast of such programme relating to the identity of any person who is not yet adult and who is involved in the defense as a defendant or potential defendant.

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