Ofcom has rapped PTC Punjabi over a news bulletin of PTC News it aired last November. The media regulator received a complaint from Mr. DS Bal on behalf of Sikh Channel.
The programme featured two news reports about the visit to the UK in November 2015 by the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narenda Modi, and included a story about a dossier (apparently presented by Mr. Modi, to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron MP) which was said to have included evidence that certain Sikh channels were inciting young Sikhs to acts of violence and encouraging secession from India. In particular, the programme said that according to the dossier, Sikh Channel was being “run by secessionist groups and individuals who supported secession from India” and that it had broadcast certain news stories and images in an attempt to provoke a violent reaction from the Sikh youth. The report further alleged that the owner of Sikh Channel, Mr. Bal, had sent money to a political organisation based in Pakistan which wanted to create an independent Sikh state of Khalistan.
Mr. Bal, the Chairman of Sikh Channel, complained on his own behalf and on behalf of Sikh Channel that they were treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme as broadcast because the programme:
– Made serious allegations that Sikh Channel supported separatist movements and incited the British Sikh youth to engage in act of violence; and alleged that Mr. Bal had funded a Pakistani based separatist movement
– Mr. Bal and Sikh Channel were not given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the above allegations made in the programme
PTC Punjabi said that given the serious nature of the claims made in the dossier, the news team had made “serious attempts” to check the accuracy of the information. Further, the broadcaster said that the reports always referred to the claims as being contained within the dossier. PTC Punjabi said that it was not possible to access the dossier itself, but that the production team had checked the reports with other news agencies who themselves reported the story. The broadcaster provided website links to these reports.
PTC Punjabi said that given the story focused on the UK’s Sikh community, the news team featured an interview with the British MP, Mr. Bhogal, who clearly expressed in the programme his own opinion regarding some Sikh channels broadcasting in the UK. The broadcaster said that this interview was considered to provide a relevant context to the main story of the dossier being delivered by the Indian Prime Minister to the UK Prime Minister.
PTC Punjabi said it had called the Indian office of Mr. Bal to seek his response, but could not reach him.
Given the serious nature of the allegations made against Mr. Bal and Sikh Channel, Ofcom considered that the broadcaster should have provided Mr. Bal and Sikh Channel an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond.
Ofcom considered that the failure to give Mr. Bal and Sikh Channel such an opportunity to respond to the allegations prior to broadcast was unfair to both Mr. Bal and Sikh Channel.