OTV’s telecast offends viewers

BY elisa patnaik| IN Media Practice | 26/09/2008
Orissa TV, owned by a leading BJD politician’s family, repeatedly telecast the explicit sexual content of a porn CD involving a young college girl, who had already committed suicide.
ELISA PATNAIK reports from Bhubaneswar that the channel did little to disguise the main players.

A  recent porn CD racket leading to the suicide of a college girl in Orissa became the main cause for repeated telecast of a porn CD on a leading local television channel in the State, inviting criticism from several quarters.


Orissa Television (OTV) -- the first private satellite Oriya TV channel from the State -- which broke the story of the porn CD case, repeatedly telecast the explicit sexual content of the CD involving a young college couple. The names of the couple, along with their addresses, family background and the institutions they studied in were also published in most of the local Oriya newspapers and regional English newspapers. The girl shown in the CD had already committed suicide by then following the circulation of the porn CD featuring her and her boyfriend.


The deceased was found hanging from the ceiling fan of her house in Cuttack on August 18, 2008. Based on reports from family members, police had registered a case of unnatural death. The girl had been secretly filmed by a hidden camera placed by her boy friend in his drawing room where they met. After making CDs of the film, her boyfriend sold it in the market. The girl was also blackmailed by her boyfriend and after reportedly coming to know of the circulation of the CDs in the market, she committed suicide. The accused and his associates apparently earned nearly Rs 7 lakh by trading the blue film CD.


Although the suicide was reported by most of the local media, its association with the porn CD circulation was first divulged by OTV on August 20, 2008. The contents of the CD were shown OTV¿s prime time news and current affairs slots, "Sahara Parikrama," "Twin City" and "Pratidin," with little to disguise the main players. The telecast continued in a similar manner on August 21 for all their news slots. The CD contents, depicting scenes of undressing and sex, usually ran parallel to the associated news content related to the incident. 


"Instead of highlighting the case and the issue, the channel was more keen, to show the porn CD contents," says Jyotsna Routray, a veteran Oriya journalist. "This is not news, but pure sensationalisation. Repeated shots of porn CD showing explicit images of the couple is not justified and that too at prime time slots on a family channel." Routray questions, "What if the victim was alive? Imagine what kind of ordeal she and her family would have gone through especially after she was already traumatised by her boyfriend?"

According to its website  OTV¿s promoter is Jagi Mangat Panda, a former super model and Director of Ortel Communications Ltd.  She is the wife of  the Janata Dal (BJD) MP from Rajya Sabha and industrialist Baijayant Panda. 


The repeated telecast of the porn CD enraged several viewers who called the channel to stop showing the contents of the CD. Although the images were somewhat blurred after receiving such complaints, the telecast continued. There was no public service aspect to this telecast, since there was no public figure involved.  

"The news could have been presented without repeatedly showing the visuals. It is irresponsible on the part of the channel and defames the victim¿s family. Although the media plays a concrete role in highlighting such issues, it should do so within certain norms and ethics. Such presentation of news on the part of OTV is condemnable," says Bhubaneswar-based viewer, Parimita, in a complaint to the channel¿s website. She further notes, "The wide criticism of electronic and print media in the Aarushi murder case should have been a great learning. It maligns the rights and dignity of the deceased."

In spite of this, OTV Channel on its part maintains that the purpose of showing the porn CD contents was not to ¿sensationalise¿ but to focus on the issue of porn CD racket and blackmailing in Orissa. "We first broke the story and highlighting such cases is in the larger interest of the society. In fact, it was only after our repeated news telecast that investigations were speeded unearthing clues on organised rackets making pornographic videos by entrapping gullible girls," claims Manoranjan Mishra, Associate Editor (inputs), OTV.  "Even the father of the victim was able to lodge a complaint based on our reports," he adds. However, he agrees that the blue film CD contents telecast on his channel were later blurred after receiving complaints from viewers.


On the other hand, media persons feel that the blue film CD was "too good an opportunity" to be thrown away by the channels. "Come on, that is the highpoint of any television channel to earn TRPs. If we have it, why not flaunt it," contends a senior television journalist based in Orissa not wanting to be named. "In all probability, the channel would have continued with the news after the accused was arrested if not for the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and the subsequent Kandhamal riots." Although the CD was shown on other news channels and websites as well, the contents were blurred. 

Jyotsna rues the lack of an effective monitoring system in such cases. "It is at times like this one wishes for an effective system to regulate unethical coverage without compromising on press freedom."  It must be noted that Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry is now revising the programming code for television channels. The revised code will spell out details on how sex and nudity, crime and violence can be depicted on the small screen. Explicit visuals of sexual activities and complete nudity will be banned. The revised code, part of the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, is also expected to incorporate rules for news channels.





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