Kid gloves regulationâ€"Part II

BY Indira Akoijam| IN Books | 10/02/2012
Reprimanding news channels in the form of censures and asking them to air apologies are not enough to put a noose around erring channels.
A review of the News Broadcasters Association’s role as a self regulatory body by INDIRA AKOIJAM
The News Broadcasters Association is a voluntary self-regulatory industry body and act as a channel of redress for the public. Since its inception in 2008, the body has acted in response to the complaints received against news contents. However, a review of the decisions that were taken till now shows that, only 9 cases were taken into consideration. In view of the 239 complaints that were handed over to the NBA by the BCCC, the cases/ complaints against the channels that were dealt with are too less.
The complaints to NBA pertained to those contents in news items where the viewers wanted discretion. Many complaints had to do with the insensitive coverage of news stories that had been covered in Hindi news channels such as Aaj Tak, Zee News, India TV, etc. In one complaint, Aaj Tak was found to have violated the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines issued by the NBA in the programme, “Operation Jai Jawan”. The channel was found to have sensationalised corruption in Ordinance Maintenance Company (OMC), Ambala, which procures supplies for the Army. The channel also did not authenticate the identity of the officers who were shown as being bribed in the visuals. Such pernicious and unauthenticated reporting should have been dealt with stringently but the NBA simply let off the channel with an admonition.
Sometimes news channels get away unscathed despite showing images that not only violate the content code of the guidelines, but also raises questions on the channel’s credibility as a disseminator of news. India TV had to face the ire of the NBA’s self regulatory authority  after it aired “Operation Gang Rape” that showed visuals of an MMS of a gang rape. But it was let off  with simply a warning for not following the guidelines of reporting a court proceeding and for interfering with the judicial investigation of the Gang Rape and the accused. Times Now was issued a censure on the unwarranted point of view of the court proceedings of Kanimozhi. TV9’s telecast of the programme, “Gay Culture Rampant in Hyderabad”, on TV9 News Channel, also drew a number of complaints. Though the broadcaster defended that the programme was aired to warn the public about the “crime” of blackmail being committed by certain persons who were enticing the people into the gay community, the NBA held that the broadcaster had violated Clauses 5 (Sex and Nudity), Clause 6 (Privacy), and Clause 9 (Sting Operations) of the Code of Ethics.        
India TV on December 2008 aired an interview of a Pakistani analyst. The analyst had given the interview to Reuters. Not only were the interview translated and read out by a female anchor against a picture of the analyst but it also claimed that the analyst was a spy for the US government. In this case, the channel violated copyrights because the interview was given to Reuters and did not accredit the news agency, but also misrepresented facts to their audience. The erring channel had to apologise and was imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh. But surprisingly the channel withdrew its membership from the NBA after the decision and again got re- elected by the NBA for 2011- 2012.

(date of decision taken)
CHANNEL- date of telecast
 News Hour- “Will Kanimozhi turn approver- Debate show
Times Now-20th
 May 2011
The entire debate, particularly the stress by the anchor (Arnab Goswami) , on a particular point of view was unwarranted and did not amount to neutral and balanced reporting of any Court proceedings.
Violation of guidelines
Suo motu action against channel
The News Broadcasting Standards Authority issued a “censure” for the breaches committed by it and made it clear that any further transgression by the said Broadcaster would be dealt with more severely.   
Programme relating to the alleged recovery of Rs. 1 crore cash which was supposed to be connected with the Tibetan Buddhist High Priest “Karmapa”. 
Zee News and
Star News -26.01.2011 and 04.02.2011
Series of stories broadcast by Zee News and Star News were one-sided, false and incorrect.
Channels had acted as a mouthpiece of the Superintendent of Police, Una,
Himachal Pradesh and had misrepresented that the Remittance Certificate issued by the Complainant was fake, without attempting to verify the genuineness of the said certificate or contacting any person other than the
Channels had dubbed the complainant as a “suspected Chinese agent” or having Chinese connection, who had been working for the Karmapa
Zee News on the ongoing investigation did not require any further scrutiny on giving a clear clarification that the channel did not provide any false information.
Authority issued to Star News a “warning” for its omission in having carried a one-sided story without obtaining the version of the person being reported upon ; and Star News was advised to be careful on this account in the future
“Operation Gang Rape”
INDIA TV-1st July, 2011
Excerpts of a Multimedia Message (“said MMS”) in relation to an alleged gang rape committed upon a girl by a group of boys, was completely inappropriate for family viewing.
Inappropriate for such footage to be broadcast on a national news channel that was open to viewing by families.
Channel had - even if inadvertently - in fact interfered in the administration of justice and acted in a manner prejudicial to a fair trial, which was a breach of Guideline 4 of the Specific Guidelines for Reporting Court
Proceedings by revealing the faces of the perpetrators.
Authority issued to the Broadcaster an “admonition”.
“Gay Culture Rampant in Hyderabad”
February, 2011
A story relating to mushrooming of gay culture in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.
Visuals shown were un-morphed.
Telephonic conversations between the reporter and two persons in which conversations, the reporter spoke to them about their sexual preferences and their possible sexual rendezvous.
Sensationalized depiction of the gay culture alleged to be prevalent in Hyderabad.
Violated the right to privacy of individuals with possible alternate sexual orientation, no longer considered taboo or a criminal act.
Misused the special tool of a “sting-operation" available only to sub serve the larger public interest.
A strong “censure” of the acts and omissions in relation to the subject broadcast made on TV9 news channel.
To pay a fine of Rs.1, 00,000/- (Rupees One Lac Only) to the News Broadcasters Association.
To run an apology on its channel for 3 days.
“Operation Jai Jawan”
Aajtak- 29th July 2010
Corruption in the Ordinance Maintenance Company (OMC) Ambala, for procuring different kinds of supplies for the use of the Indian Army.
Telecast video clips were shown of Officers/Staff accepting bribe but none of them had any association with OMC Ambala.
To run an apology for 5 days.
To grant 2 Corps Ambala an opportunity to express their version on the subject matter of the said telecast, by broadcasting the un-edited version on the subject matter of the said telecast of a duration not exceeding an aggregate of 5 (five) minutes on the channel Aajtak.
Proof of compliance by Aajtak by submitting a Compact Disc.
‘Incorrect’ reporting by the television news channel News X (“said
Channel”) of news claiming that a person had been killed in police firing in Srinagar
News X- July 10, 2010
News telecast on the said Channel had enraged locals, who had attacked a police station, injuring 15 policemen, in Pulwama town near Srinagar.
Broadcaster’s unequivocal admission of its lapse among others is a significant correctional step that the Authority has observed.
Broadcaster to hold a workshop to educate all its concerned personnel in the modalities necessary for faithful performance of their task of disseminating correct information.
Mumbai Central- “Eye Bank Mein Gorakh Dhanda”
NDTV India- 16th December
Channel reported that various malpractices were going-on at the Eye Bank Co-ordination & Research Centre, Parel, Mumbai (“EBCRC”) and at the Arpan Eye Bank, Ghatkopar, Mumbai
At the EBCRC corneas/eye balls were being enucleated by persons not qualified to do so.
Arpan had misappropriated around Rs. 27 lacs received by it as grant from the Government of India.
EBCRC was exporting corneas/eye balls out of Maharashtra.
Breach of the principle of impartiality and objectivity in reporting.
Not ensuring neutrality in reporting.
To run an announcement, expressing regret for 3 days.
To grant to EBCRC and Arpan an opportunity to express their version on the subject matter on NDTV India in the program Mumbai Central.
Proof of compliance of this Order by NDTV by submitting a Compact Disc.
Interview of Farhana Ali to Reuters deceptively used on India TV as their broadcast
India TV- December, 08
A broadcast made on India TV in December, 08, wherein the said
Channel had misused the interview given by Ms. Farhana Ali to Reuters by broadcasting it on India TV and thereby misrepresenting that Ms. Farhana Ali had given such interview to India
TV, which was factually incorrect, unethical and unjustified.  
India TV deceptively dubbed the voice in
Hindi, a language Ms. Farhana Ali did not know and did not speak.
India TV said in its story that Ms. Farhana Ali was a spy for the United States Government, which she never was.
Ms. Farhana Ali worked as a political analyst and India TV’s broadcast had falsified her position within the US
Strong “disapproval” of the acts and omissions in relation to the subject broadcast made on India TV in relation to Ms. Farhana Ali.
Pay a fine of Rs.1, 00,000/- (Rupees One Lac Only) to the NBA.
 Run an apology on a day.
To supply to the NBA a Compact Disc containing the broadcast of such apology / regret with particulars of the time and date of broadcast.
Report on an accident that took place on February 24, 2008
10 member channels: Aaj Tak,
Dilli Aaj Tak, CNN IBN, India TV, Live India, NDTV, NDTV India, NDTV Metronation,
Delhi, News 24 and Zee News- 21.2.09
Complaint made by parents against the electronic media for false, baseless, derogatory, defamatory, sensational and inhuman reporting of an accident that took place on February 24, 2008 in which their children died.
Media gave only the police version and reported that all the four occupants of the car were drunk. 
A clarification to be aired by the respective channels.
A CD of the telecast would also be sent to the parents by the concerned broadcasters. 

Reprimanding news channels in the form of censures and asking them to air apologies doesn’t seem to be strong enough to put a noose around these erring channels. When India TV stole an interview from another channel and telecast it, it was asked to cough up Rs 1 lakh by BCCC. That is the severest punishment handed out so far. A complaint against major new channels by parents was made for false, baseless, derogatory, defamatory, sensational and inhuman reporting of an accident that took place on February 24, 2008. Their children died wherein the media went about reporting that the all the occupants of the car were drunk. Such insensitive and baseless reporting could have been dealt more stringent punishment rather than simply asking the broadcasters to air a clarification.
Fine of Rs. One lakh
India TV, TV9
Issued censure
Times Now, TV9
Asked to run apology
TV9, Aaj Tak, NDTV India, India TV, Dilli Aaj Tak, CNN IBN, Live India, NDTV Metronation, News 24 and Zee News
Warning/ admonition
Star News, India TV
Mild warning
News X, Zee News
The IBF’s 52 members, representing 250 channels which invited the viewers to send complaints to the council, had a huge number of complaints since June 2011. Though there has been a serious violation of news content guidelines, the action taken by these bodies is seemingly not strong enough to even warn the channels. The effectiveness of such bodies would be seen more clearly when the self regulatory mechanism follows a stricter decision making by the authorities. Self regulatory guidelines with stricter actions against the channels that violated these guidelines are necessary especially in the backdrop of news content that run a spate of news programmes that glorify superstitions, honour killing and how news programmes resort to showing clippings of comedy and entertainment shows.

The self regulatory mechanism followed by the NBA and the BCCC is a two-level system that needs to be followed by the broadcaster and the authorities respectively not only to address the interest of the people but also allow creative freedom to TV content producers. The whole regulatory structure for the electronic media that exists is quite inadequate and flawed. Though the television channels have kept themselves in a self-regulation mode, they continue to produce content that violate ethical norms and offend sentiments of the viewers. Is merely being asked to air an apology is enough to get them to clean up their act?

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The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

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