Ofcom has rapped KTV for broadcasting a show in March 2019, in which a viewer complained of material shown in the live discussion programme ‘Panthak Masle’.
Presented by Jagjit Singh Jeeta, it featured a panel of guest contributors, five of whom were spiritual and community leaders. The panellists included: Balkar Singh; Reshmi Singh; and Dawinder Singh. The topic of discussion was Harnek Singh, also referred to in the programme as “Neki”, a Sikh radio presenter resident in New Zealand who was said to have been “raising questions on” and “criticising” various aspects of the Sikh faith “since 2013”.
The viewer complained that the programme was likely to encourage or incite crime or violence. The complainant said that the programme “tried to incite fear and terror” towards Harnek Singh and included threats of violence directed towards him.
KTV apologised for its “error in judgement” and said that, before the broadcast, it had been “extremely vigilant”. It added that because the programme discussed a “sensitive issue” within the Sikh community of “one of their own followers who has been ostracised by certain members of the faith”, it took the following steps to ensure compliance with the Code:
• inviting guests from within the Sikh religious community who would “show a more compassionate side” and demonstrate to viewers that it was possible to have a “tolerant” attitude towards Harnek Singh;
• using its most experienced presenter to present the programme;
• explaining to the guests that they were not to use any language which could be construed as offensive and reiterating this by having the guests sign “pre-show forms”; and,
• having the presenter ask the guests to “keep the conversation civil” immediately before the live broadcast.
KTV said that during the live discussion, the presenter “was shocked…and didn’t expect this sort of language from such religious people”. It said that the host initially did not know how to react but “maintained his professionalism and later did mention that these comments were not the views of KTV” and that “Ofcom would not appreciate them”. KTV added that after the programme, the host was “extremely upset” as he felt he had been misled by the guests and was shocked that such religious members of the community would behave in such a way.
KTV said that to ensure this issue did not recur in future live broadcasts, it was “looking at having some sort of a delay in place between recording and airing” such programmes.
Ofcom considered the Licensee failed to provide sufficient and effective challenge or context to the extreme views presented within this programme. For all the reasons, Ofcom considered that the programme provided a platform for several guests to express views which amounted to indirect calls to action and were likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder. In Ofcom’s view, this indicated a fundamental lack of understanding of the Licensee’s compliance obligations under the Code.
Ofcom considered the breaches in this case to be extremely serious. Ofcom has put KTV on notice that it will consider these breaches for the imposition of a statutory sanction.
Ofcom found KTV in breach of Rules 3.1, 2.1 and 2.3.