The functioning of News Broadcasters Association, the apex body of 14 leading news broadcasters, has come under a cloud with one of its members -- India TV -- withdrawing from the association.
Rajat Sharma's Hindi news channel walked out of NBA following a show-cause notice by the News Broadcasting Standards Disputes Redressal Authority for violating self-regulation principles. It was the authority's first order since it became operational in October 2008.
In its termination notice to the NBA president and TV Today's executive director G Krishnan, India TV has raised questions regarding the quorum of the authority meeting where the decision to penalise the channel was taken. In its disputes redressal regulations, NBA mandates a quorum of five members, including the chairman, during a meeting.
When contacted, former Chief Justice of India J S Verma declined to comment. "I cannot comment on the matter now. We can talk after April 15," Verma told Business Standard. NBA president G Krishnan, too, said he was getting the details of the case.
In its letter to NBA, India TV also claims that the channel was denied the right to personal hearing by the authority despite requests. It has also raised questions on the objectivity and fairness in the functioning of the NBA secretariat as well.
The television news channel industry stands divided on India TV's withdrawal from NBA. A section of the industry --senior editors of news channels -- on condition of anonymity expressed relief on India TV walking out of NBA. They were critical of the channel's programming.
However, another NBA member said India TV's withdrawal from NBA was a double-edged sword. "While some channels may celebrate the exit, it weakens the NBA. With the association not being able to manage its first case on self-regulation properly, it may give the government an excuse to interfere."
The head of an English news channel said the test case on self-regulation had generated controversy. "Self-regulation in India won't work. Nor will a government-owned regulatory body. Indian broadcasting industry needs an Ofcom kind of neutral statutory body that works in the UK to regulate the industry."
Last week, the News Broadcasting Standards Disputes Redressal Authority had slapped a Rs 1 lakh fine on India TV for a story it ran on Farhana Ali, a writer, lecturer and policy analyst residing in the US. Ali's interview to the Reuters news agency was dubbed by India TV in Hindi and aired, giving the false impression that it was given to the channel. She was also called a spy of the US government in the telecast.