Television

NBSA exonerates CNN-IBN & IBN7 in one case, indicts them in another

NEW DELHI: The News Broadcast Standards Authority (NBSA) has cleared the television channels CNN-IBN and IBN7 in a complaint relating to Home Minister P Chidambaram, while censuring the channels in another case relating to allotment of land to the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust in Gurgaon for a charitable eye hospital.


The NBSA had received a complaint through Vice President M Hamid Ansari alleging that the channels had carried from 14 to 18 December last year alleging conflict of interest of Home Minister P Chidambaram in withdrawing some criminal cases against Sunair Hotels.


While exonerating the channels, NBSA said: "It could be said that the broadcaster should have been more circumspect in reporting a matter where parties were involved in long-pending multifarious litigations and before dragging in the name of the Home Minister, thereby creating sensationalism".


Holding in the other case that the reports relating to the land allegedly allotted to the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust for its proposed charitable eye hospital in Gurgaon were "clearly biased", the NBSA said "a broadcast has to be judged on the basis of the overall impression, perception and impact that a viewer gets on a plain viewing of the broadcast; and not on the basis of some elaborate and arcane submissions made subsequently before a jury."


Charging the channel with willful violation of NBA Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards and norms of ethical journalism, the NBSA imposed a fine of Rs 100,000 on the broadcaster, to be paid to News Broadcasters Association (NBA) within one week of receipt of the order.


The NBSA directed the NBA to adequately publicise the judgment and show proof of compliance of telecast of the apology be submitted to NBA on compact disc within seven days of telecasts.


The NBSA also said that some Tweets sent by the Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai “clearly bear out the sensationalised build-up to the telecast of the story in relation to the Trust on 1 August 2011 and the subsequent follow-on stories. These tweets also tend to expose the motive for running the story, viz. to improve the image of the channels at the cost of accurate, fair and objective reporting, as also the reputation of the RGCT. It is also evident from the viewing of clippings of the various broadcasts that the entire version given by the RGCT was not duly carried in the subsequent broadcasts; and even the version carried in the very first broadcast was truncated. This was also admitted by the broadcaster at the hearing.”


The NBSA directed the broadcasters to carry an apology by running the text (static) on full screen in large font size with voice over (in slow speed) expressing regret for the said telecast on their channels for 5 consecutive days at 9 pm sharp from 24 to 28 December (IBN7 will carry the apology in Hindi).


The apology says: “CNN-IBN sincerely regrets that the story broadcast on 1 August 2011 and subsequently with regard to the land allotted to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust at Village Ullawas, District Gurgaon, presented a wrong and misleading picture. CNN-IBN regrets that the version of Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust was not sought before airing the story. CNN-IBN regrets that they have not played Rajiv Charitable Trust’s version in all the follow on stories telecast on their channels in the month of August 2011. CNN IBN deeply regrets and apologise for the harm caused to the reputation of the Trust and its Trustees”.


The complaint from the Trust through its chief executive officer Y S P Thorat related to news reports broadcast on CNN-IBN and IBN7 news channels alleging “Gandhi Trust flouting law?” & “Rules bent to aid Gandhis?” in relation to the land allegedly allotted to the RGCT for its proposed charitable eye hospital in Gurgaon. The first news report in this regard was broadcast on CNN-IBN and IBN7 on 1 August 2011 and subsequent reports were broadcast on various dates and time up to 5 August 2011 by both the channels.


The grievance made in the complaint was that through these news reports, the channels had represented that the RGCT had flouted the law and that rules had been bent for the benefit of the Gandhis belonging to a prominent political family of the country.


Prior to hearing the complaint by the Trust of 14 September 2011, the NBSA had asked the Trust to first approach the channel with its complaint. Accordingly, the Trust filed a complaint on 7 October 2011 before IBN18 Broadcast Limited, to which the Broadcaster responded in its letter dated 20 October denying violation of the Code of Ethics or any other related Guidelines of the NBSA. It replied that the “stories emanated from the fact that“all the inhabitants of village Ulhawas in Haryana had approached the High Court of Punjab & Haryana seeking to bring an end to the allegedly discriminatory approach adopted by the Government of Haryana with regard to the execution and implementation of the State’s land acquisition policy; these villagers had alleged before the Court that preferential treatment had been accorded by the Government of Haryana to a chosen few (including your Trust)”. The broadcaster also said it was prepared to broadcast the views of the Trust on the issue.


However, the Trust declined to accept the Broadcaster’s offer and thereafter asked the NBSA to decide the complaint against the Broadcaster.


A perusal of the materials submitted by the Complainant and the broadcaster showed that the High Court was seized of several matters challenging acquisition of land from various parties in a batch of writ petitions pending before that Court. The RGCT was a party to at least one of the writ petitions that was pending before the High Court, and so the NBSA on 23 November decided that RGCT be asked to confirm if the subject matter of its complaint before the NBSA was also pending before any court of law, and to place before the NBSA any relevant material. But the RGCT said it was not aware of any proceedings in any court of law pertaining to the subject matter of the complaint in which it is a party. However, the NBSA refused to hear the complaint as it was confirmed that the RGCT was a party in one case.


However, the RGCT in August 2012 informed NBSA that the matter had been dismissed. The broadcaster reiterated that it was prepared to carry the viewpoint of the Trust. The Trust also said the RGCT had been granted a “lease” of land measuring 5 acres/3 marlas by the Gram Panchayat for setting up a charitable eye hospital, as opposed to the allegations on the channels which spoke of “acquisition of over 850 acres for the Trust” and “the Trust was given 8 acres of land.” The broadcaster on the other hand claimed that it had attempted to give the Trust’s viewpoint.

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