Govt. lifts ban on Live India channel for fake sting operations

NEW DELHI: The month-long ban on the Live India Channel imposed on 20 September for telecast of a fake sting which led to a law and order problem and arrest of a Delhi school teacher, has been lifted with effect from 13 October.

This follows the acceptance by the government of the plea by the channel that there was no deliberate mala fide intention and the reporter had misled them and unfortunately the sting operation telecast on 30 August took a different shape.

The government has, therefore, decided to revoke the prohibition imposed on transmission/re-transmission of the Live India (Janmat) TV Channel on all platforms with effect from midnight tonight.

The sting operation that involved teacher Uma Khurana was found to be ‘defamatory, deliberate, false and contained suggestive innuendos and half truths; incited violence and contained content against maintenance of law and order.' It 'criticized, maligned and slandered an individual in person and it denigrated children.’

Broadcast Initiatives Limited, distributor and uplinking applicant for Live India (earlier named Janmat) TV, in their appeal of 21 September and 4 October submitted that that they had exercised all due diligence and care according to the prevailing industry practice and there was no deliberate attempt by the channel to defame anybody by telecasting the sting operation. But it subsequently emerged that the reporter had misled them. 

The channel requested the Information and Broadcasting ministry to reconsider the prohibition of transmission of the channel for one month as it had put a question mark on its commercial viability. 

The ministry said the channel had ‘assured that they are committed to effectively using journalism in the best interests of the nation and society by following the highest standards of journalism and that they would be observing and minutely complying with all the relevant provisions of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and the requisite license conditions’. 

The ban has been imposed in terms of the Sub-Section (2) of Section 20 of the Act which is clear that ‘no person shall transmit or re-transmit through a cable service any programme unless such programme is in conformity with the prescribed programme code’.

Section 20 (2) of the Act says the government may regulate or prohibit the transmission or re-transmission of any channel or programme ‘Where the Central Government thinks it necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of the (i) sovereignty or integrity of India; or (ii) security of India; or (iii) friendly relations of India with any foreign State; or (iv) public order, decency or morality.'

The channel’s reporters Prakash Singh and Rashmi Singh are already in police custody. It is also learnt that some women’s organizations have filed a complaint asking the ministry to cancel the broadcasting licence of the channel. 

Interestingly, the incident has come out at a time when there is growing confrontation between the ministry and news broadcasters on the need or relevance of an imposed Content Code. 

The school teacher Uma Khurana has been granted bail in the fake sting which showed her using her own students for prostitution. Businessman Virendra Arora who wanted to recover some money reportedly owed to him by Uma is reported to have hatched the conspiracy using Prakash.

Janmat was a predominantly "views channel" earlier till it re-launched itself in the form of Live India, a 24x7 news channel, on 3 August.

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