The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) pulled up news channels such as Zee News, Times Now, News Nation and ABP Majha acting on a host of complaints on content which had racial and communal overtones aired between 2020-2021. The authority in some cases directed the broadcasters to immediately pull down videos it found in violation of the ethics code.
On November 13 the broadcast authority released seven orders, including three based on complaints filed by Citizens for Peace and Justice (CJP) led by activist Teesta Setalvad.
However, the authority dismissed one the complaints filed by Setalvad on the grounds that it was filed beyond the period of limitation.
BOOM looks at the various orders issued against the broadcast channels.
Times Now coverage devoid of objectivity
The authority said the 37-minute-long Times Now debate aired on March 3, 2020 which focused on activist Teesta Setalvad's visit to the Shaheen Bagh protest site was "devoid of objectivity".
"In order to maintain objectivity, an anchor can conduct a debate, however, if he/she must reach a conclusion, it has to be only at the end of the programme, based on the discussions held amongst the panelists. The anchor must avoid pushing any agenda during the debate. Further, the person being reported on should either be made part of the debate, or his/her views should be reported," NBDSA said cautioning the channel.
The authority's order came on a May 7 2020 complaint filed by Setalvad who said Times Now debate was a smear campaign against her. In response, the channel said Setalvad must not be so "thin-skinned" considering she was a public figure.
Justice AK Sikri, former Supreme Court judge and NBDSA Chairperson ruled that Times Now selectively used statements made by Setalvad to create "a particular narrative which was not the main focus of her message". These can be seen once the full text of her speech is examined, the NBDSA order said.
In this context, using bold headlines and attributing her to be a "Modi Baiter" seems out of context and doesn't appear to be an objective assessment of her speech… the authority said.
News Nation needs to take remedial action against anchors violating ethics code
NBDSA said News Nation needed to introspect and take remedial action against its anchors who fail to remain neutral and impartial during broadcasts. The authority's observation came on Setalvad's complaint against News Nation's show titled "Conversion Jihad" which was aired on November 12, 2020.
Remarks and statements like "Memchand zinda hai Jamaat sharminda hai"; "500- Hindu kaise banaye Muslim?" and "Kya Mewat Pakistan ban gaya?" made by anchor Deepak Chaurasia during the show ethics guidelines.
The authority observed that anchors must be trained regarding the manner in which they conduct the programmes.
However, since News Nation had already issued an unconditional apology in this matter, the NBDSA warned the channel to be careful in future.
Will not comment on Media Trials: NBDSA
In a significant order, the NBDSA said it would not proceed on the February 23 complaint filed by Campaign against Hate Speech for its media trial against climate activist Disha Ravi since a similar matter is pending adjudication before the trial court.
The authority added that it would not condone violations if any pertaining to media trials and right to privacy issues if the matter is already pending before high courts.
In light of the above, NBDSA looked into the complaint and observed that Zee News violated specific guidelines covering reportage pertaining to accuracy. Further, the broadcaster had also violated the Advisory on Use of Adjectives and Hyperbole, 2012 by using words such as "traitor", "exposed", "why does she hate India so much", "Tukde Tukde Gang", "Evidence Gang" and "Deshdrohi" in the programme," the order read.
"In view of the above, NBDSA decided to admonish the broadcaster and warn it to be careful in future while broadcasting on such controversial and sensitive issues," Justice Sikri's order read.
In a separate September 1, 2020 complaint filed by Matin Mujawar, NBDSA expressed its "strong disapproval" over a Zee News programme aired on August 31 2020. The authority said the programme was "certainly polarizing" and violated the principles of Objectivity and Impartiality enshrined in the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards.
NBDSA clarified that if the incidents mentioned during the broadcast were merely reported as news or if the broadcaster had woven a story by connecting these incidents to oppose extremism without emphasizing on any religion, no objection could have been raised.
In yet another complaint against Zee News, NBDSA said the news channel went overboard in terming People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as anti-Hindu. The animal rights organization took exception to Zee News's coverage of its campaign against leather during the festival of Rakhi last year. The news channel ran #AgainstHinduAgenda during its show "Taal Thok Ke: Special Edition" aired on July 17, 2020.
Zee News "unnecessarily sensationalized" PETA's message without taking its objectives into consideration, NBDSA said. NBDSA observed that considering PETA's objectives, Zee News had sensationalized the campaign and lacked impartiality, objectivity, neutrality, and fairness.
In view of the above, NBDSA decided to direct the broadcaster to exercise caution while airing such programmes in future," the order read.
Exercise caution while portraying minors: NBDSA to ABP Majha
NBDSA advised ABP Majha to exercise caution while broadcasting sensitive programmes relating to minors. The authority's advisory came on a complaint filed by Indrajeet Ghorpade who alleged that the news coverage of the incident where three minors were trapped in a lift resulting in the death of one violated privacy rights.
NBDSA noted that though the programme was aired in public interest violating the minors' privacy was unacceptable. NBDSA did not buy the channel's argument that the impugned video footage was obtained from a CCTV camera installed in the lift which is in public domain and therefore does not violate privacy rights.
NBDSA held that the broadcaster should have protected the minors' identity by blurring their faces throughout the programme.
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