INDIA. Mumbai: British TV regulatory authority “Ofcom” has imposed a fine of £20,000 (nearly Rs 19.70 lakh) on “Republic Bharat”, Republic TV’s Hindi channel, for hate speech against Pakistani people in a program broadcast last year.
In its 17 page order dated December 22, 2020 “Ofcom” said that Republic Bharat’s “Poochta Hai Bharat” program – the evening primetime show hosted by its Editor in Chief Arnab Goswami – had failed to comply with its broadcasting rules.
“Ofcom”, which stands for Office of Communications, is the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications, and postal industries of the United Kingdom.
The program aired last year
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.” At the time, the atmosphere was charged with Pakistan’s critical reaction to India taking away Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and breaking up the state into two Centrally-ruled Union Territories. But the regulator did not accept this as an extenuating circumstance.
By the time the episode aired, “Ofcom” had already notified “Republic TV” that it had been receiving several complaints on content broadcast by it concerning “highly pejorative references to members of the Pakistani community (e.g. continually referring to them as “filthy”)”.
The show under the scanner was a 35-minute discussion that hinged upon India’s “Chandrayaan” (Mooncraft) mission but sought to encompass a larger narrative on how India was advanced in space science and its neighbor Pakistan, was not. Among participants were Major Gaurav Arya, Maj General KK Sinha, Prem Shukla of the BJP, and Omar Inam and Omar Altaf from Pakistan. 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 said.
Pakistanis projected in poor light
The statements made in the show by guests, and including the host Goswami, “conveyed the view that all Pakistani people are terrorists, including that: “their scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians, sportspeople- are terrorists. Every child is a terrorist over there. You are dealing with a terrorist entity”. One guest also described Pakistani scientists as “thieves”, while another described Pakistani people as “beggars”, Ofcom” stated.
“It was, therefore, our decision that this content met “Ofcom”s definition of “hate speech” and that Rule 3.2 was breached… The program also likened Pakistani people to donkeys and referred to them as “Paki”, a racist term that is highly offensive and unacceptable to a UK audience.
Republic TV argued that the use of the term “Paki” was not intended to be offensive, nor would be interpreted as such particularly when used in the sub-continent. However “Ofcom” stated that the program had the clear potential to be highly offensive to most people.
Republic TV apologizes
Republic TV informed “Ofcom” that it broadcast an apology to “redress the breaches” and “convey our regret to all our viewers”. It said that the apology was broadcast a total of 280 times between February 26, 2020, and April 09, 2020, at all hours of the day. The apology, broadcast in Hindi and English, said: “APOLOGY The communications regulator, the Office of Communications, post-viewing the September 6, 2019 episode of “Poochta Hai Bharat”, found out some offensive words were used in that program which may have disturbed the viewers. Republic Media Network apologizes if those words hurt any religion or particular person.”
However “Ofcom” stated that “ we were of the view that the breaches were serious given the strength of the statements by Republic TV. Besides although the licensee said that the apology was broadcast 280 times, the log of broadcast apologies it provided listed apologies only 279 times”.
“Republic TV” did not respond to emails sent by “Transcontinental Times” for its reaction.
“We will revert in the matter” was the answer given to the telephone call by this correspondent.