Times Network’s English news channel Times Now has been asked by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) to apologize on air for an interview it telecast of an alleged eve-teaser in August 2015. The authority has also asked the channel to pay a fine of Rs.50,000.
The NBSA is an independent body of the New Broadcasters Association headed by an eminent jurist. Its task is to adjudicate upon complaints about broadcasts.
In a detailed order issued by justice R.V. Raveendran, chairperson of the authority, the NBSA has taken cognizance of the complaints filed against a news report telecast by Times Now on 24 August 2015, in connection with an alleged eve-teasing incident in Delhi.
The complaints against the channel relate to the manner in which the Times Now reporter chased and interviewed the alleged eve-teaser, in an “aggressive, intimidating, and browbeating style, and the telecast of the interview with tag-lines treating the accused as guilty”. The complainants have alleged that the broadcaster breached the Code of Conduct relating to impartiality, neutrality and objectivity in reporting and violated guidelines relating to reportage.
After a detailed hearing of the representatives of the news channel and the complainants, the NBSA gave its order where it acknowledged that while eve-teasing and safety of women are important issues, and while freedom of expression is a cherished fundamental right, the right of an individual to a fair trial and fair treatment by the media is also very serious matter.
“Broadcasters cannot condemn as guilty persons accused of having committed a crime or offence when the matter is still under investigation or where the court is yet to decided upon the guilt or otherwise of the accused,” it said.
It added that “media howsoever bona fide its intentions are, cannot act as the judge, jury, prosecutor and investigator in regard to any matter pending before a court or under investigation. It should be kept in mind that the reputation or credibility of a person once lost, as a result of a sustained media campaign focus, can never be regained…”
The NBSA warned the broadcaster to be more careful while broadcasting programmes/news reports about matters pending trial/investigation.
The authority has asked Times Now to telecast the apology prior to the 9pm news bulletin on 22 March in text form which is static, on full screen and in large font size with clearly audible voice-over where it acknowledges that it has failed to comply with the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards of the NBSA.
The NBSA has also asked the organization to remove the video of the said programme if it is on hosted on the website of Times Now.
Emails sent to and calls made to Times Network spokesperson as well as Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami on the order did not elicit a response till the time of going to press.
However, an executive of the News Broadcasters Association and head of a news channel said that if news channels want self-regulation, they should follow NBSA order. “Channels do get hauled up by the NBSA off and on and most of them follow the orders. It is in their interest to do so,” he said, declining to be named.
HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, competes with Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd, the owners of Times Now across several categories and markets.