Indian TV channel made to pay £20,000 fine over hate speech


British TV regulatory authority Ofcom has imposed a £20,000 fine on Republic Bharat, Republic TV’s Hindi channel, for allowing hate speech against Pakistani people in a programme broadcast last year.

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.

In a detailed note on its decision, Ofcom said that Republic Bharat’s September 06, 2019 primetime show evening programme hosted by Arnab Goswami, had failed to comply with its broadcasting rules.

Ofcom stated that Goswami and some of his guests held a debate that amounted to “hate speech against Pakistani people, and derogatory and abusive treatment of Pakistani people.”

While Worldview Media Network Limited, which has the license for the broadcast of Republic Bharat in the UK, argued that such statements were “figures of speech not intended to be taken literally”, the regulator was not convinced.

Ofcom said statements made by a “retired major general from the Indian Army, which clearly threatened that the Indian military would attack Pakistani civilians in their homes, were an expression of hatred and desire to kill by a figure of authority.”

“In our view the broadcast of these statements also promoted hatred and intolerance towards Pakistani people … the overall tone of the discussion was provocative, comparing Pakistanis to donkeys and monkeys,” held Ofcom.

It said that Pakistani contributors were repeatedly interrupted and afforded little time to make points which may potentially have provided a challenge or context.

The channel is being broadcast in the UK since August 2019. The regulator reveals that just a  couple of weeks before the programme in September 2019 the Worldview Media Network Limited was notified by phone and email that they were receiving a number of complaints about the channel making “highly pejorative references to members of the Pakistani community.”

The UK regulator was informed that Republic Bharat had broadcast an apology “a total of 280 times” between 26 February-9 April, earlier this year, “at all hours of the day”.

The Worldview Media Network Limited even emphasised that the public apology 280 times substantiates “how apologetic we are” and that the “particularly heavy rotation of apologies… demonstrates our efforts to convey a deep apology.”

Ofcom welcomed the apology but said it did not consider that the “wording used would have conveyed to the audience the nature of” their concerns about the programme.

It said that the Worldview Media Network Limited Licensee should be directed to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings in this case, on a “date and in a form to be determined” by them.

The channel told the regulator that it has learnt from the “misjudgements made in this programme” and reiterated the measures it has put in place to avoid a repeat contravention.

The Worldview Media Network Limited while arguing against the imposition of financial penalty said that “it seriously threatened its ability to sustain the Republic Bharat channel” explaining that they are running at a loss. (Source: Independent UK)