India / UK regulator fines network airing Arnab's show with £20,000 for hate speech

Zoom News : Dec 23, 2020, 03:29 PM
London: The United Kingdom’s communication and broadcasting regulator, OfCom, has slapped a fine of £20,000 (Rs 19.8 lakh) on Worldview Media Network Limited, which operates  Republic TV’s Hindi channel Republic Bharat in the United Kingdom, for airing a programme that contained hate speech and offensive content.

In a sanctions statement issued on Tuesday, the regulator has found three breaches during an episode of Republic Bharat’s programme ‘Poochta Hai Bharat’ which was aired on September 6, 2019. The debate was held by Republic’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami and focused on Indo-Pakistani relations. This included discussion of India’s record of space exploration and other technological advancements in comparison to Pakistan’s, the on-going dispute between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, and Pakistan’s alleged involvement in terrorist activities against Indian targets, Ofcom said.

“Ofcom’s Breach Decision found that an episode of the programme ‘Poochta Hai Bharat’ contained 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,” the statement said. 

OfCom said that In the programme, the presenter and some of his guests conveyed the view that all Pakistani people are terrorists, including that: “their scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians all are terrorists. Even their sports people”; “every child is a terrorist over there. Every child is a terrorist. You are dealing with a terrorist entity”. One guest also described Pakistani scientists as “thieves”, while another described Pakistani people as “beggars”. In the context of these criticisms, the presenter, addressing Pakistan and/or Pakistani people, said: “We make scientists, you make terrorists”.

“We considered these statements to be expressions of hatred based on intolerance of Pakistani people based on their nationality alone, and that the broadcast of these statements spread, incited, promoted and justified such intolerance towards Pakistani people among viewers,” OfCom said.

Ofcom’s Executive found that this programme contained “uncontextualized hate speech and that this content was potentially highly offensive,” breaching Rules 2.3, 3.2 and 3.3 of the broadcasting code. Here is what the rules stand for, as per the statement by OfCom:

Rule 2.3: “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. Such material may include, but is not limited to […] offensive language, […] discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of […] religion or belief […]”.

Rule 3.2: “Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television […] programmes […] except where it is justified by the context”.

Rule 3.3: “Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television […] services […] except where it is justified by the context…”

In addition to the hefty fine, the Worldview Media Network Limited has also been asked not to repeat the programme; and to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings on a date and in a form to be determined by the regulator.

In its defence, Worldview and Republic Bharat stated that these statements were “figures of speech not intended to be taken literally, which Asian viewers would have understood clearly.” The network also argued that these statements were “justified by reference to the political context of heightened tension between India and Pakistan at the time of broadcast,” and that the programme as a whole was “calling for peace and unity and uplift of the entire region regardless of nationality.” The network added that the discussion was balanced by the inclusion of some more conciliatory statements in the programme and the participation of guests from both India and Pakistan. However, while OfCom agreed that it was legitimate to discuss Indo-Pakistani relations, it did not accept the network’s characterisation of the programme as a whole and found that the programme had the clear potential to be highly offensive to most people.