Popular Indian newsperson penalized by UK regulator


(In the hearing of an unrelated case against him,) Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami arrives at a court in Mumbai. (ANI Photo)

Arnab Goswami, the popular anchor and part-owner of Republic TV, found himself in a fresh bit of trouble Tuesday, after the UK media regulator found his content offensive to specific groups of people.

On September 6, 2019, Goswami’s Hindi channel Republic Bharat broadcast a show in which he indulged in what the regulator called “offensive language”, “hate speech” and “ abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities.”

Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami himself was the host of the show, and had specifically targeted Pakistani citizens on that show, calling them “all terrorists.” Republic Bharat holds the licence for broadcast into UK homes. The theme of the show that night was India’s Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft mission to the moon and “involved a comparison of India’s space exploration and technological advancements compared to Pakistan, and Pakistan’s alleged terrorist activities against Indian targets,” UK’s communications regulator, the Office of Communications (OfCom), said.

On the show, OfCom said, Goswami claimed: “Their [Pakistan’s] scientists, doctors, their leaders, politicians all are terrorists. Even their sports people. Every child is a terrorist over there. Every child is a terrorist. You are dealing with a terrorist entity”. The OfCom release said: “In the context of these criticisms, the presenter [Goswami], addressing Pakistan and/or Pakistani people, said: We make scientists, you make terrorists.”

The regulator has held that the show, “Poochhta Hai Bharat” (“India Wants to Know”), violated the regulator’s Rules 2.3, 3.2, and 3.3, amounting to hate speech, abusive language, offensive language, and discriminatory treatment on the grounds of religion or belief:

  • “In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context. Such material may include, but is not limited to […] offensive language, […] discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of […] religion or belief […].”
  • “Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television […] programmes […] except where it is justified by the context”.
  • “Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television […] services […] except where it is justified by the context…”.

The regulator slapped a fine of £20,000 (approximately $26,821)—more symbolic than substantive, considering that the network of news platforms has quickly risen to be one of India’s most popular with advertisers and subscribers—along with a mandate for an on-air apology.

The show also included guest panelists who reportedly broke the same rules. One of the guests, a “General Sinha”, referred to people of Pakistan as “beggars” and threatened military attack on the country. The people on the show also repeatedly referred to “Pakis,” considered a racist slur in the UK.

India’s television audience measurement association BARC reported that during that week, Republic Bharat witnessed a surge in viewership: “Placed in the numero uno spot, Republic Bharat further consolidated its position in Week 36, witnessing a gross viewership of 333,938(000), an increase from 287,062(000) recorded last week. The channel’s market share also grew from 19.91 per cent in Week 35 to 21.46 per cent this week (BARC | NCCS 2+ | HSM | Wk 36 ’20).”

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