Republic Bharat rapped by Ofcom over graphic content in news bulletin

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Republic Bharat has had its first breach with Ofcom over graphic content it broadcast in the UK during a news report on 20th August 2019.

Through routine monitoring Ofcom identified footage broadcast of a traffic collision involving a car colliding with a motorcyclist and several pedestrians. A video clip was broadcast which showed an urban street from the side with traffic travelling in both directions. In the foreground of the video was a pavement with two pedestrians and two motorcycles. One motorcycle had one person sitting on it while the second motorcycle had the driver and two passengers sitting on it.

In response to the graphic nature of the video, Worldview Media, who operates Republic Bharat in the UK said it was a dedicated news channel, targeted at the Asian community
with a predominant demographic of males over 25. It is a bespoke feed for the UK market and is edited for compliance with the Code”. The channel added that “audience expectations vary hugely between Asian news channels and their UK counterparts…and Asian channels are often more fervent in their delivery which may include graphic imagery”.

In its full response, Worldview Media said:

• the news item related to a speeding car colliding with pedestrians and motorcycles, which resulted in one person dying, and four people sustaining injuries. It was understood from local sources that the likely cause of the accident was the driver being under the influence of alcohol;

• the item was in the public interest because drink driving is a growing problem in this area of India and by reporting on it, it served to “raise awareness and inform the public about how drunk driving is endangering people across the country”;

• in the Uttar Pradesh area, during 2017 there was a total of 3,336 cases of road accidents due to drunk driving. The Licensee explained that the public interest was heightened because India’s penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol had just been amended to increase the punishments associated with it, with new laws due to take effect on 1 September 2019;

• the footage was “repeated to inform the audience of the impact and implications of drink driving and was supported by a warning before the report and narrative during the broadcast”. Worldview Media said that the news presenter said: “the picture from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh will send shivers down your spine”, which the Licensee explained was a warning “typical on Hindi news channels and is clearly understood by viewers that the upcoming pictures contain graphic content”. The Licensee also said there was a second following warning before the visuals appeared: “a car lost control and drove over people”; and

• the Licensee said it “did not linger on the injured motorcyclist” and the images had been treated with a “filter to wash out” what was seen by the viewer.

Worldview Media also said that it had conducted “compliance training seminars with the Production Teams and Senior Management before the launch of the channel. This included how to handle news stories involving disaster footage and accidents”. It said it “apologised for any offence this report may have caused but, within the context of Asian news”, it “believed the story and how it was reported, including warnings, did not exceed the boundaries of acceptability for the likely audience”.

Ofcom concluded that the broadcaster was found in breach of Rules 1.3, 1.11 and 2.3.

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