India TV withdraws from regulatory body

April 10th, 2009 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) India TV news channel Friday withdrew from the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), to protest the self-regulatory body’s decision to slap a fine of Rs.100,000 on the channel for allegedly airing a fake interview with a US-based analyst of Pakistani origin.
India TV also protested the “partisan functioning of the NBA” and blamed it’s decision on the alleged machinations of the rival India Today group. G. Krishnan, CEO of TV Today network, is president of the NBA.

The NBA, comprising leading broadcasters and social activists, is headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Verma.

“We are compelled to notify our withdrawal from the membership of the NBA. This communication may also be kindly treated as a notice for withdrawal from the membership of the NBA with immediate effect,” said a letter by India TV to the NBA’s president.

In its first order, the NBA slapped a Rs.1-lakh fine on India TV for violating the “principles of self-regulation and specific guidelines” in handling the story based allegedly on an interview with Farhana Ali, a US-based writer, lecturer and policy analyst.

The NBA Standards Dispute Redressal Authority ordered that India TV pay the fine within a month and run an apology as a ticker on any one day between 8 pm and 9 pm, five times with a space of 12 minutes each, stating that Farhana’s story was a “misrepresentation of facts”.

In another letter to News Broadcasting Standards Disputes Redressal Authority, India TV has contended that Farhana Ali has already “accepted and appreciated” an on-air apology run by the channel.

“In fact, as a measure of her satisfaction with our sincerity, the complainant has gone on to voluntarily offer a live appearance on issues of her expertise,” the letter said.

Maintaining that the channel had followed “due diligence” in addressing Ali’s grievances, India TV also argued that the NBA had not taken into consideration Farhana’s letter before passing the order on April 6.

Earlier, the channel had asked the NBA authority to grant it a “personal hearing” at its next meeting and consider Ali’s letter.

Accusing the NBA secretariat of “concealment” and sins of commission and omission, India TV alleged that the secretariat, under the presidentship of the channel head of TV Today group, has “virtually become the personal fiefdom or a personal office of the TV Today Group.”

Contending that here was complete absence of objectivity or fairness in the functioning of the NBA secretariat in assisting the redressal authority, the channel said: “It seems that the NBA Secretariat works overtime in indulging itself in such acts of omission and commission whereby on the one hand the most relevant documents and facts were not placed before the Hon’ble Redressal Authority and on the other hand we stood deprived of our invaluable right of personal hearing and representation through counsel before the Hon’ble Authority, in violation of the mandatory regulations in this regard.”

Ali had alleged that India TV had misused an interview she had given to Reuters news agency, by “deceptively dubbing” it in Hindi, a language she does not know or speak. She charged that this act was “factually incorrect, unethical and unjustified”, a statement issued by the NBA said. The channel had run the said interview as part of its coverage of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

India TV, however, maintains that it telecast the wire copy in a short two-minute story after midnight as what she said was important enough to be carried in the context of the Mumbai attacks. In the interview, Ali had said that there were more terrorists involved in the Mumbai mayhem. India TV, however, admitted that Ali’s utterances were para-dubbed in Hindi.

Ali asked India TV why had it telecast her views and protested against her description as a CIA spy. She asserted that she actually worked for the agency in a different capacity. India TV maintains this complaint was addressed and a correction was aired. The complaint was also voluntarily shared with the NBA Authority, sources in India TV said.

The NBA authority was formed by news broadcasters in October 2008, in the wake of concerns over media reporting of the Mumbai attacks, to create a self-regulatory mechanism and prevent any government intervention to control the electronic media in the form of a proposed Broadcasting Bill and Content Code.

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