UK broadcast regulator finds Times Now guilty of biased coverage. Times group blames Arnab, says ‘current team’ will be sensitised.
United Kingdom’s broadcast regulator Ofcom has found Times Now guilty of breaching its broadcast code by not presenting news with due impartiality. And now, fearing shutdown in UK, Times Global has been giving assurances to the regulator that its presenters would not present any personal views and that they would conduct training programs to sensitise their staff on presenting unbiased news.
Investigating its coverage of last year’s terror attack in Uri, the regulator says Times Now did not present the news item with due impartiality and Rule 5.9 of the code was breached.
Ofcom has published findings of its investigations after studying episodes of the channel’s nightly show ‘The Newshour’ from last year discussing the rising tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
The report quotes several instances where the show accuses the state of Pakistan for its role in the crisis and blames the channel for not getting alternative viewpoints on the subject. It also presents transcriptions of the debate where the host is found abruptly cutting his guests representing the Pakistani perspective.
The report observes:
“The programmes included a number of statements that were critical and gave a one-sided view of Pakistan’s policies and actions in relation to, for example, alleged terrorist activities towards India. Given the gravity of the various criticisms being made about Pakistan (for example, Pakistan was variously described as a: “failed state”; “terrorist nation” and “international pariah”), we considered that a key relevant alternative viewpoint was one that reflected the opinion of the Pakistani Government, in particular challenging the criticisms made about Pakistani Government within the programmes.”
In its response to Ofcom’s questions, Times Global gives a guarded response, saying “It cannot be the purpose of our channel to exactly balance the views from Pakistan or other countries in a rigid fashion to ensure that equal voice is given to all parties.” It added that, in its view, over the range of its output it had “observed the spirit of the ‘Due Impartiality’ rule.”
While the channel defends its editorial position, it appears to be ceding ground when it comes to the role of its then Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami. “We can understand some people’s views that the presenter’s role on these programmes seemed to be rather overwhelming and confrontational. (Sic) He is no longer associated with the channel and has moved out of the organization”.
Times Global also assured the regulator that the presenters who had replaced Mr Goswami had “a very different approach” and had been “bringing in a wide range of reactions and comments from the participants on the show, while ensuring that no personal views” are included in the programmes.
The channel further goes on to admit that as a result of the Ofcom investigation, it had “conducted extensive discussions with the current team, specifically drawing attention to Ofcom Rules and Guidance”. It added that it had also taken steps to “conduct training programmes” for its news teams and it stated its belief that “our coverage on sensitive issues such as these should always be undertaken keeping in mind the pertinent rules and guidance”
At the time of Ofcom’s investigation between August and September 2016, the programme was presented by Arnab Goswami. After his departure from Times Now last year, Goswami is all set to enter the Indian broadcast market with his recently announced Republic TV.
Ofcom operates under a number of Acts of UK Parliament, including in particular the Communications Act 2003. Accountable to Parliament, its role is to set and enforce regulatory rules for the communication sector.
Times Now has been broadcasting in UK since November 2015 and therefore holds a broadcast license issued by the regulator. It is therefore obliged to follow the regulator’s code of conduct. India currently does not have any broadcast regulator.
You think India should have an internal broadcast regulator to make news broadcaster accountable? Signup with your email id: