UK slaps £20,000 fine on Indian TV channel over anti-Pakistan content

The British TV regulatory authority has slapped a fine of £20,000 on India’s fiercely nationalist and popular Republic television’s Hindi channel for broadcasting hate speech against Pakistan.

Ofcom is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the United Kingdom.

In a detailed verdict, Ofcom said that Republic Bharat’s “Poochta Hai Bharat” programme – the evening primetime show hosted by controversial Arnab Goswami – had failed to comply with its broadcasting rules, The Wire reported.

Republic TV and its combative founder and main anchor Goswami are largely seen as sympathetic to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

According to Ofcom, an episode, shown on September 6, 2019, featured “comments made by the host and some of his guests that amounted to hate speech against Pakistani people, and derogatory and abusive treatment of Pakistani people. The content was also potentially offensive and was not sufficiently justified by the context.”

By the time the episode aired, Ofcom had already notified Republic that it had been receiving a number of complaints on content broadcast by it in relation to “highly pejorative references to members of the Pakistani community..”

Worldview Media Network Limited, the licensee which airs Republic Bharat in the UK, will also need to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings and is barred from repeating the programme in the UK.

The show under the scanner was a 35-minute discussion that hinged upon India’s lunar mission that left it red faced with embarrassment as its ambition to become the fourth country to land on the moon ended with failure last year.

“The host and the Indian guests dominated the discussion, with the Pakistani guests attempting to respond but largely being shouted down by the presenter and Indian guests,” Ofcom’s note says.

The content “spread, incited, promoted and justified such intolerance towards Pakistani people among viewers,” found the body. As such, it said, the show violated three rules of its Broadcasting Code.

The code does not prohibit criticism of any country or citizens of that country, Ofcom notes, adding that “such criticism must not spill over into pejorative abuse.”

An Indian court earlier this month sent the chief executive of Republic television network to jail in a case related to manipulation of television ratings.

Mumbai police alleged that Republic TV tried to artificially inflate its audience ratings by paying people to tune in to the channel.

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(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)