NBSA issues orders against News18 Kannada, Suvarna News and Times Now based on complaints filed by Campaign Against Hate Speech
The National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) on 16 June 2021 issued orders against two Kannada news channels and one English news channel based on the complaints filed by the Campaign Against Hate Speech (CAHS) in 2020.
The campaign had moved the NBSA against these channels for the hateful coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in which they had targeted members of Tablighi Jamaat as well as the entire Muslim community.
CAHS was formed in February 2020 and has been tracking hateful media coverage, particularly targetted at minority communities. It has approached various media regulatory bodies such as the NBSA and Press Council of India with complaints against media publications and channels for the latter’s violation of media-related laws and guidelines.
These orders by the NBSA are extremely heartening and can instil faith among general public as well as campaigns such as ours that self-regulatory media mechanisms can function to hold media organisations accountable. These orders are in are in line with judgements and comments passed by various Indian courts which have held certain media organisations for communalising the pandemic by targeting minority communities. But we urge the Hon’ble Authority to respond to matters having large-scale and harmful consequences for an entire community and the nation with immediacy and reduce the duration for such adjudications.
The NBSA is set up to examine complaints submitted to the National Broadcasting Association, a self-regulation entity that private TV news channels have voluntarily associated themselves with. We call upon News18 Kannada, Suvarna News and Times Now to take note of these orders, comply with the directions issued and bring back moderation and objectivity into their reportage, shunning sensationalism that puts members of targetted communities at incredible risk and danger.
Details of orders against the three channels
News18 Kannada: CAHS had filed a complaint regarding two shows aired on 01.04.2020 titled “Do you know how is Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz which has spread coronavirus to the nation” and “How many have gone to Delhi’s Jamaat congregation from Karnataka” before the District Level Monitoring committee and PIB Fact Check Unit, which forwarded it to the NBSA. In its order, the NBSA has noted the following: “…the manner in which the programmes were presented was highly objectionable. The news report was based on pure conjecture. The tone, tenor and language was crass, prejudiced and disrespectful. The programmes were prejudicial, inflammatory, and crossed all boundaries of good taste and sensibility without any concern for the feelings of a religious group. It was aimed at promoting and inciting hatred between communities.” The NBSA has held that the programmes broadcasted were in violation of the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards, the Principles of Self-Regulation relating to impartiality, objectivity, ensuring neutrality and lacked verification of facts.
Suvarna News: CAHS had filed a complaint against seven shows aired between 31.03.2020 and 04.04.2020 on Suvarna News. The NBSA has held that in the case of six of the seven shows, the “entire blame/cause of the spread of the corona virus was linked to the Tablighi Jamaat and in turn to a particular community. The titles of the programmes has an insidious effect which would incite communal violence. The programmes had gone beyond facts and certainly crossed the limits of good taste and decency in reporting”. Importantly, the NBSA rejected the defence taken by the broadcaster to the right to free speech and the role of the media and stated that the “right to free speech came with reasonable restrictions”. It noted that “there was certainly lack of balance, objectivity and impartiality in the programmes” and “were overtly prejudiced against a particular religion” and had “promoted and spread hatred which may have affected people’s lives”. It agreed with CAHS’ observations that hate speech dehumanises entire communities and makes them targets of vigilante violence. The NBSA held that the broadcaster had violated the Code of Ethics and the Fundamental Principles of Self Regulation. It also said that the broadcaster should necessarily impart training to its anchors and ensure that to ensure compliance with Code of Ethics and Guidelines of the NBSA.
Times Now: CAHS had filed a complaint before the District Level Monitoring committee and PIB Fact Check Unit, which forwarded it to the NBSA against the channel for airing a programme titled “Is Tablighi Jamaat wilfully sabotaging India” on 02.04.2020. While accepting the channel’s submission that the choice of a news debate is an editorial discretion, the NBSA has pointed out the basic principles of accuracy, impartiality, neutrality and objectivity must be adhered to and that “the anchor must be balanced and cannot push a debate towards a certain agenda”. It noted that visuals aired during the show did not corroborate the statements made by the anchor and “therefore, it lacked objectivity.” The NBSA noted that while the broadcaster may not have control over what its invited panelists may say, “the anchor/broadcaster should exercise proper discretion in selecting panelists for a particular programme”. It also held that the programmes telecast by the broadcaster violated the Fundamental Principles in the Code of Ethics and Self-Regulation, relating to impartiality and objectivity in reporting.
For further queries, please contact:
Campaign against Hate Speech (ethicalmediacampaign[at]gmail[com]com)
- The Congnate, ‘News18 Kannada, Suvarna News Fined, Times Now Censured Over ‘Hate Content’, Falsely Vilifying Tablighi Jamat, Muslim Community‘, June 17, 2021.
- The Hindu, ‘NBSA reprimands three TV channels over Tablighi Jamaat reports‘, June 18, 2021.
- Deccan Herald, ‘NBSA fines News18 Kannada, Suvarna News, censures Times Now‘ June 18,2021.
- The News Minute, ‘Times Now censured, two Kannada channels fined over Tablighi Jamaat coverage‘, June 18, 2021.
- News Laundry, ‘‘Shameful’: Volunteer group helps hold 3 TV channels accountable for hateful Tablighi Jamaat shows‘, June 18, 2021.
- Bar & Bench, ‘NBSA imposes 1 lakh fine on News18 Kannada for inciting religious hatred, Rs. 50,000 on Suvarna News‘ June 18, 2021.
- Scroll.in, ‘Times Now censured, two Kannada channels fined for biased coverage of Tablighi Jamaat congregation‘, June 18,2021.
- Bloomberg Quint, ‘Why These Indians Want You To Fight Hate On The News’, June 23, 2021.
- The Quint, ‘Post NBSA Rap, News18 Kannada Issues Apology for Tablighi Coverage‘, June 24,2021.
News 18 Kannada ran an apology for their coverage as per diretions of the NBSA on June 23rd, 2021.