THE BRITISH broadcasting regulator has fined the company, which has the licence to broadcast Arnab Goswami’s Republic Bharat Hindi news channel in the UK, £20,000 for a debate on the channel that it found contravened the code against “hate speech”.
In its order against Worldview Media Network Limited on Tuesday, the Office of Communications, or OfCom, said that on its show “Poochta Hai Bharat” on September 6, 2019, “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…”
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.”
It 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”.
The breaches, it mentioned, consisted of only a single broadcast, “which by its nature was not ongoing” and Worldwide Media Network Limited “took some steps to prevent future breaches, including stopping live broadcasts of debates, introducing pre-broadcast checks, and a curation processes designed to ensure compliance of editorial content, and strengthening compliance briefings with guests” after it was contacted by OfCom.
The “number and nature of contraventions within the first year of the Licensee’s operations in the UK is concerning” it said.
The order said that in its defence Worldwide Media Network “stressed 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”. But, it added, “Ofcom had put the Licensee on notice just over two weeks prior to the broadcast that we were receiving complaints about pejorative references to Pakistani people on the service.”