India TV on April 10, 2009 withdrew from the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) in protest against 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, Farhana Ali, who is of Pakistani origin.
India TV also protested the “partisan functioning of the NBA” and blamed its decision on the alleged machinations of the India Today Group, G Krishnan, CEO of TV Today network, and also the President of NBA.
In a letter to the NBA President, Rohit Bansal, COO, India TV stated: “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.”
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 within a space of 12 minutes each, stating that Ali’s story was a misrepresentation of facts.
In a letter to the News Broadcasting Standards Disputes Redressal Authority, India TV contended that Ali had already “accepted and appreciated” an on-air apology run by the channel.
The letter said, “This complaint was earnestly addressed and a corrigendum aired. The complaint was voluntarily shared with the NBA Authority. The recording of the retraction was made available to Ali and she in writing accepted the corrigendum.
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 channel had followed due diligence in addressing Ali’s grievances. India TV also argued that the NBA had not taken into consideration Ali’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.
The letter also stated, “The facts of the present case would demonstrate that the Secretariat of the NBA by its acts of omission and commission has not only frustrated the entire objective behind this noble cause, but has now compelled us to withdraw our membership from the NBA.”
The letter added, “Under these circumstances, it is apparent that the NBA Secretariat has made the ‘Redressal Authority’ to proceed without having the copies of the e-mails, which were annexed with our response dated March 19, 2009, and our letter dated March 31, 2009 annexing therewith the e-mail of Ali, after which there was no necessity for the ‘Redressal Authority’ to proceed any further. We were never given any notice by the NBA Secretariat regarding the time, date and place for personal hearing and representation through counsel for defending ourselves before the ‘Redressal Authority’.”
In addition, the letter allaged, “We would be entirely justified in our belief that the NBA Secretariat, under the presidentship of the channel head of the TV Today Group, has virtually become the personal fiefdom/ a personal office of the TV Today Group as it has become apparent that not only was there a complete absence of objectivity/ fairness in the functioning of the NBA Secretariat in assisting the ‘Redressal Authority’, 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 Redressal Authority and on the other hand, we stood deprived of our invaluable right of personal hearing and representation through counsel before the Authority, in violation of the mandatory regulations in this regard and as stated hereinabove.”
“Without prejudice and subject to all other actions which are available to us in accordance with law and in continuation of our letter dated April 9, 2009, while expressing our deep anguish and serious protest against such partisan functioning of the NBA Secretariat, we are compelled to notify our withdrawal from the membership of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). This communication may also be kindly treated as a notice for withdrawal from the membership of the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) with immediate effect,” the letter further stated.
It may be recalled that Ali had alleged that India TV had misused an interview that 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.
Despite repeated attempts NBA could not be contacted at the time of filing the story.
A lot of questions have been raised following this episode and we have surely not heard the last of it. We will keep you updated on all the developments.