Broadcasters’ body slaps Rs 1 lakh fine on India TV

The News Broadcasters' Association, (NBA) a self-regulatory authority headed by former Chief Justice J S Verma, issued its first-ever order on Thursday, slapping a Rs 1-lakh fine on India TV news channel and asking them to run an apology on air. The authority took action on a complaint lodged by a USA-based policy analyst against the television channel.

The complainant, Farhana Ali, described as a writer, lecturer and policy analyst, 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 said 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.

Slamming India TV for violating the NBA's "Principles of Self-Regulation and Specific Guidelines", the NBA Standards Dispute Redressal Authority expressed "strong disapproval" of the channel's handling of the Farhana Ali story. It has ordered that India TV pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh to NBA 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".

This authority was formed by news broadcasters in October 2008 to create a self-regulatory mechanism and prevent any government intervention in the form of a proposed Broadcasting Bill and Content Code that would leash channel content.

While the stringent action taken by the authority against the channel may have dispelled doubts being raised about the self-regulatory mechanism's efficiency, it is still to be seen whether such fines and strictures will be acceptable to the 31 news broadcasters who are part of the NBA.

In its defence, India TV said it had already aired a clarification on the issue after exchange of e-mails with Farhana. However, the NBA did not take this into account despite the channel submitting Farhana's letter expressing her satisfaction with India TV's clarification, the channel is learnt to have argued in its communication to the authority.

The channel has requested the authority to review its order in its next meeting.

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