Perhaps India's most talked-about debate show, The Newshour that airs on Times Now, has come under the scanner of a United Kingdom broadcast regulator.
It has accused the show of being partial and nurturing anti-Pakistan bias in many of his episodes when it was anchored by former Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami.
UK broadcast regulator Ofcom studied 19 episodes of the show that were broadcast between August 1 and 30 September 2016. It did so after a complaint by a local resident as the show is simultaneously telecast in the UK.
These shows came at a time when political tensions were simmering between India and Pakistan. Here's what the regulator has accused the show of:
- Pakistan's view-point was not given due representation
- Pakistan was being largely for the Kashmir crisis without taking alternative viewpoints into account
- The channel did not present the news with due impartiality and breached Rule 5.9 of the broadcast code.
Here are some of the instances that Ofcom has referred to in its report:
Instance 1: This episode was aired on August 1 2016 about a march to the Wagah border by Pakistani militants Syed Salahuddin and Hafiz Saeed.
Arnab Goswami told Mufti Nasir Ul Islam, Deputy Grand Mufti of Jammu & Kashmir, that Islam was “beholden to the Pakistanis” and that he “will not allow this channel to become an instrument for your venom”.
Here's how the debate unfolded: (AG: Arnab Goswami, MNI: Mufti Nasir Ul Islam)
Instance 2: This debate featured on August 4 discussing whether the Pakistani Government had “hit an all-time diplomatic low”.
There was the following exchange between Arnab Goswami and the Pakistani barrister Zahid Saheed about Pakistan's media coverage of Home Minister Rajnath Singh's visit
(AG: Arnab Goswami, ZS: Pakistani barrister Zahid Saheed)
The report noted the following contentious bits:
After investigating 18 other such episodes the report concluded:
“The programmes included a number of statements that were critical and gave a one-sided view of Pakistan’s policies and actions in relation to, for example, alleged terrorist activities towards India. Given the gravity of the various criticisms being made about Pakistan (for example, Pakistan was variously described as a: “failed state”; “terrorist nation” and “international pariah”), we considered that a key relevant alternative viewpoint was one that reflected the opinion of the Pakistani Government, in particular challenging the criticisms made about Pakistani Government within the programmes.”
The report also observed how Arnab adopted an aggressive stand when it came to defending India's policies and how he shut out critics by not allowing them to voice their opinion by cutting them short.
Times Now's response:
After criticism, the channel’s parent group Times Global, has assured the regulator that no personal views will be presented in its programmes and that they will impart training to sensitise their staff on giving unbiased news.
When asked about Arnab Goswami it said, “We can understand some people’s views that the presenter’s role on these programmes seemed to be rather overwhelming and confrontational. He is no longer associated with the channel and has moved out of the organisation”.