New Delhi: A body set up by news broadcasters to regulate themselves made public on Friday a series of actions it took against some channels this year for breaching guidelines. This comes shortly after two TV journalists were arrested for allegedly seeking to extort money over negative news stories and amid calls for an external watchdog for the media.
The notices were issued by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), set up by the News Broadcasters’ Association (NBA), to channels including CNBC-TV18, Aaj Tak, CNN IBN, IBN-7 and Times Now. They were asked to run corrections or apologies for breaches of NBA code of ethics and broadcasting standards. NBA represents private television news and current affairs broadcasters. NBSA is headed by former Supreme Court chief justice J.S. Verma.
News reports carried by CNN IBN and Times Now based on a Press Trust of India item in May on the “alleged” leak of a letter from former army chief V.K. Singh to the Prime Minister were called “unjustified” by NBA as the cabinet secretary had issued a denial.
The channels breached guidelines related to “fair, objective and balanced reporting”, NBSA said. The channels were asked to inform viewers that the story was baseless.
Hindi news channel Aaj Tak was asked to carry the other side of the story after a report was deemed to have violated NBSA’s advisory on “reportage of family or matrimonial matters”. This stipulates that coverage of such subjects amounts to invasion of privacy if there is no public interest or news value. The channel was also asked to pay a fine of Rs.1 lakh to NBA. Channel editor Supriya Prasad confirmed the development and said, “We complied with NBSA’s order.” Prasad did not comment further on self regulation.
CNBC-TV18 was reprimanded for telecast of a health programme on diabetes that was sponsored by a pharmaceutical firm and deemed to be “paid news” by NBSA as adequate disclosures weren’t made. The NBSA directed the broadcaster to pay a fine of Rs.1 lakh to the NBA and issued a “censure”.
The channel complied with the directive, said Anil Uniyal, chief executive, Network18.
“We respect NBSA for keeping a close watch on programming and exercising self-regulation,” Uniyal added. His comments were also with reference to the notices issued to CNN IBN and IBN-7.
Times Now was pulled up for not letting viewers know that one of its panellists was also a consultant for the industry on which he was commenting. NBSA directed the channel to ensure adequate disclosure is made in relation to business interests and credentials of experts invited by the channel.
The channel is in compliance with the orders, said Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief. This also covers the breach mentioned earlier in the story.
“We complied with everything NBSA directed us to do. Self-regulation is the way forward and is very effective for the media. NBSA is a robust body, conscious of self-regulation,” added Goswami.
Former Press Council of India member Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, however, said an external regulator was required.
“Self-regulation works in an ideal situation, but we need an external regulator to check the black sheep,” he said. “We do need a regulator independent of media and the government. It should be adequately empowered.”