A few days back, the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, censured the IBN Group (CNN IBN and IBN 7 channels) and fined them a token amount of Rs 1,00,000.

This was for irresponsibly reporting last year that the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust had been favourably granted 850 acres of land in Haryana for setting up an eye hospital. The channel had alleged that the Haryana govt. had bent rules to favour the Gandhis.

Now, the Gandhi family is a favourite among naysayers, for taking potshots at, and since most get away with it, the IBN Group thought it would do so too.

In its quest for TRP’s, the channel ran a ‘campaign’ for 5 days, with reportage, which has now been described by the NBSA chairman as, “clearly biased, tendentious and factually incorrect on various grounds“. The entire text of the judgement is below this post. You can also see the full order here.

The channel has been asked to broadcast a full apology, running for 5 consecutive days from the 24th till the 28th of December. The apology is to be as follows:
“CNN IBN sincerely regrets that the story broadcast on 1st August 2011 and subsequently with regard to the land allotted to the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust at Village Ullawas, District Gurgaon, presented a wrong and misleading picture. CNN IBN regrets that the version of Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust was not sought before airing the story. CNN IBN regrets that they have not played Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust’s version in all the follow on stories telecast on their channels in the month of August 2011. CNN IBN deeply regrets and apologise for the harm caused to the reputation of the Trust and its Trustees,”

While the IBN group accepts that it has caused harm to the reputation of RGCT and the Gandhi family, IS a mere token fine and apology, enough to repair the damage ?

Is it enough of a deterrent to the channel, or other channels who indulge in shoddy and sensationalist reporting ?

The answer is pretty evident.

Today, there is an ‘exclusive campaign / breaking story’  almost everyday by every other channel which seeks to whip up a frenzy.

The recent coverage of protests by students on Raisina Hill on the ‘Delhi Gang Rape’ issue  is a case in point. It almost seems as if the second independence movement has been launched by students and the police and government are our colonial masters, seeking to thwart our security and free speech.

Why havent the channels showered some amount of praise on the police for catching the perpetrators in record time, the administration for ensuring that the girl gets the best possible treatment, etc ?

No, they would rather egg on impassioned students demanding safety and security, resignation of the PM, ouster of Sonia Gandhi, where is Rahul Gandhi, etc etc ?

No, its not the youngsters who are fault. Its just the media which loves to whip up a frenzy.

This circus has got to stop before someone does something really stupid.

P.S: If you arent aware of the work that RGCT is doing, click here to see how they have changed the lives of over 4 lakh women in UP and lifted them from poverty to a better life.

The judgment in favour of RGCT by NBSA against CNN IBN and IBN 7, for factually incorrect reportage

In its 7-page order, former Chief Justice of India and NBSA chairperson Justice JS Verma came down heavily against the channels. The judgment says the following:

14. After a thorough consideration of the complaint filed by RGCT, the response filed by the broadcaster by way of its various communications and the documents filed by the RGCT, and on consideration of the rival submissions made by both parties, NBSA holds as follows:

14.1. Admittedly, 850 acres of land in District Gurgaon, Haryana was not subject matter of allotment to the Trust. Only some 5 acres and 3 marlas of land was leased by the Gram Panchayat to the Trust for 33 years for setting-up a charitable eye hospital;

14.2. Evidently, the RGCT did not ‘acquire’ 850 acres of land nor did the RGCT get any ‘exemption’ to acquire any land;

14.3.Of the 65 petitions filed before the Punjab & Haryana High Court, only one petition mentioned the RGCT and even the claim in the petition was not to effect that the RGCT had “swung the deal” in relation to acquisition or release of any land;

14.4.Smt. Anjolie Ila Menon had raised no objection to the lease of land to the RGCT but had only petitioned the High Court on acquisition of land being done without any consideration for the environment ;

14.5.The tweets made by Editor-in-Chief Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai clearly bear-out the sensationalized build-up to the telecast of the story in relation to the Trust on 1st August, 2011 and the subsequent follow-up stories. These tweets tend to expose the motive for running the story, viz. to improve the image of the channel at the cost of accurate, fair and objective reporting, as also the reputation of the RGCT ;

14.6. It is also evident from the viewing of clippings of the various broadcasts that the entire version given by the RGCT was not duly carried in the subsequent broadcasts; and even the version carried in the very first broadcast was truncated. This was also admitted by the broadcaster at the hearing ;

14.7. The broadcasts carried on the channels were therefore clearly biased, tendentious and factually incorrect on various grounds, the most important of which are summarized above;

14.8. Even the reportage of proceedings pending in Court, was inaccurate and misleading ;

14.9.The Broadcaster’s contention that tweets made by its Editor-in-Chief were personal in nature is devoid of any merit, since by way of the tweets the Editor-in-Chief was clearly promoting the supposed ‘expose’ that was scheduled to be telecast on the channels and twitter handle used was the official twitter handle of the Editor-in-Chief of CNN-IBN;

14.10. The Broadcaster’s response on the issue of whether it sought the Trust’s version (. .. we understand that the channel tried to contact …. ) itself shows that no such effort was made and even after the RGCT sent its version by e-mail dated 1st August, 2011, no effort was made by the Broadcaster to reflect such version in its entirely ; and in fact in subsequent broadcasts, the RGCT’s version was not carried at all. The Broadcaster’s reply that the omission to carry RGCT’s version was inadvertent or unintentional arising from the technical team misunderstanding editorial directions is not acceptable.

15. The NBSA observes that a broadcast has to be judged on the basis of the overall impression, perception and impact that a viewer gets on a plain viewing of the broadcast; and not on the basis of some elaborate and arcane submissions made subsequently before a jury. In the present case, from plain viewing of the broadcast made on the channels, it is evident that an impression was deliberately created that the RGCT was involved in a dubious deal and received illegal favours from the Government of Haryana in relation to the allotment of 850 acres of land to the RGCT by contravention of law; and that illegitimate favours were bestowed on the RGCT by reason of the prominent position of the Trustees in the country’s political set-up. It is inevitable that such reportage will cause serious prejudice and harm to the reputation of the RGCT and to its Trustees. There was no justification for such reportage.

16. Accordingly, the NBSA is of the view that by telecasting the series of broadcasts relating to the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust as aforesaid, M/s. IBN18 Broadcasting Limited committed egregious violation of the NBA Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards, especially guidelines relating to accuracy, impartiality, neutrality, requirement of due diligence and verification of facts prior to telecast, as also the need to carry the version of the person affected. The news reports in question are factually incorrect reportage of the extent and status of land that the RGCT was holding. The reportage also misrepresented proceedings in several writ petitions pending before the Punjab & Haryana High Court. The reportage smacks of clear bias and lack of objectivity. The reportage is an example of sensationalisation with the purpose of promoting and improving the image of the channels, which is unethical journalism.