British telecoms regulator Office of Communications (Ofcom) on Tuesday fined Worldview Media Network £20,000 after its Indian channel Republic Bharat TV aired a programme which showed "hate speech" against Pakistanis.
In a decision published earlier this year, Ofcom found that in a current affairs programme — Poochta Hai Bharat — the presenter Arnab Goswami and some of his guests made "several statements which amounted to hate speech against, and derogatory and abusive treatment of, Pakistani people".
The programme was also "potentially offensive" and in violation of the Broadcasters' Code.
"Due to the serious nature of these breaches we are considering imposing a statutory sanction," Ofcom had said in the decision.
The decision included transcripts from the programme, which aired on Sept 6, 2019. The show discussed, among other things, India's space programme, the Kashmir issue and "Pakistan’s alleged involvement in terrorist activities against Indian targets".
Ofcom said that the show had violated sections 2.3, 3.2 and 3.3 of the Broadcasters' Code by airing material that included "hate speech, abusive and derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities and offensive content".
The regulator also asked Worldview Media Network, the licensee which airs Republic Bharat in the UK, for an explanation. The network argued that the show was "based on evidence" and "did not promote terrorism or hatred and it certainly did not promote or justify hatred in any way" but this was not deemed an acceptable explanation by the watchdog.
Following the penalty, the network told the regulator it was stopping the airing of live debates on relations between Pakistan and India and would ensure that content was reviewed before being broadcast along with taking other steps.
In its decision, Ofcom said that it was cognisant of the broadcaster's right to freedom of speech and it did not prohibit airing of programmes on controversial topics as it was "clearly in the public's interest". However, broadcasters should ensure they comply with the code, it added.
It said one the guest's, General K. K. Sinha, comments were "an expression of hatred and desire to kill by a figure of authority" and comments alleging that all Pakistanis were terrorists were considered as "expressions of hatred based on intolerance of Pakistani people based on their nationality alone".
It noted that while Pakistani contributors were also included in the programme, they were "repeatedly interrupted and given little time to make points".
In a statement on its website, Ofcom said that in addition to the fine, the channel would have to broadcast the regulator's findings on a "date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom". It also directed the channel not to repeat the programme.