New Delhi: British broadcasting regulator Ofcom has imposed a fine of approximately Rs 19.73 lakh (20,000 pounds) on Worldwide Media Network Limited, which operates Hindi news channel Republic Bharat in the UK, on Tuesday for broadcasting content that involved “offensive language”, “hate speech” and “ abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities”. The channel has also been asked to air an apology on it. Also Read - WhatsApp Row Over Arnab: Maharashtra to Hold Meet Take Next Course of Action Tomorrow
Ofcom (Office of Communications) which is a British government-approved regulatory and competition authority for broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries in the country has imposed the fine for the show “Poochta Hai Bharat” which was broadcasted on September 6, 2019. Also Read - TRP Scam Case: WhatsApp Chat Between Arnab Goswami And ex BARC CEO Leaked Online
According to an Indian Express report, in its order against the news channel Ofcom said, “Ofcom’s Executive found that this programme contained uncontextualised hate speech and that this content was potentially highly offensive, breaching Rules 2.3, 3.2 and 3.3 of the Code. Rule 2.3 of the OfCom Broadcasting Code states that broadcasters “must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context” and it 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 states that “Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television… except where it is justified by the context,” while Rule 3.3 says that “Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television… except where it is justified by the context…” Also Read - Republic TV's Arnab Goswami, Others Paid 'Lakhs' to BARC Officials for TRP Manipulations, says Mumbai Police
The order stated that the “programme contained statements which amounted to hate speech against, and was abusive and derogatory about, Pakistani people on the basis of their nationality. These statements would potentially be harmful and highly offensive to any person who did not share the sentiment being expressed by the presenter and his Indian guests. In Ofcom’s view, the potentially harmful and offensive nature of the content was compounded by the political context in which the episode of Poochta Hai Bharat was broadcast,” the order said.
The order further stated that it “considered that the hate speech against the Pakistani people broadcast in this programme without sufficient challenge or context would potentially be particularly harmful in this context, as it had the potential to cause further damage to the already strained relationship between people of Indian and Pakistani origin.”
In its defence Worldwide Media Network said that the breaches were not intentional and mentioned that the regulator has “no evidence to suggest the breaches occurred deliberately or with the knowledge of Republic Bharat’s senior management”.