Ofcom has upheld two complaints made against KTV by the Sher Group (made on its behalf by Mr Gurmail Singh Malhi) for a gurdwara election broadcast in September 2017.
The debate programme included representatives from two of the three groups standing for election to the management committee of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall, west London. No representatives of the third party, the Sher Group, appeared in the programme. The presenter made repeated requests for the Sher Group to contribute to the election debate. The Sher Group complained that its representatives were prevented from taking part in the programme and that an unfair impression was given to viewers that it had been given the opportunity to participate and respond to allegations made against it.
Ofcom considered that the repeated references by the presenter for representatives of the Sher Group to participate in the debate programme had the potential to materially and adversely affect viewers’ opinions of the Sher Group. This was because the comments potentially gave the impression that the Sher Group had chosen not to take part in the programme, and that it did not want to engage in debate about the election issues and the management of the Gurdwara. According to the complainant, the Sher Group had not been notified of the time of the debate and that when its representatives had arrived at the venue, they were prevented from taking part. This, in our view, was likely to have a potentially created an adverse inference in the minds of the viewers as to why the Sher Group was not represented in the programme.
Ofcom said, “In our view, it was incumbent on the broadcaster to have fairly represented the Sher Group’s absence from the programme. We considered that the broadcaster, who we understood was aware of the actual situation at the time of broadcast, failed to inform viewers that the Sher Group representatives had in fact attended the studios, albeit late. Instead, the broadcaster gave the impression to viewers that the Sher Group had chosen not to take part in the debate despite having been invited to do so. This, we concluded, created a misleading and unfair impression of the Sher Group to viewers.”
It added, “Taking all these factors into account, we considered the comments made in the programme and the omission of any explanation for the absence of the Sher Group representatives from the programme, had the clear potential to materially and adversely affect viewers’ opinions of the Sher Group in a way that was unfair. Therefore, in the particular circumstances of this case, Ofcom concluded that the broadcaster did not take reasonable care to satisfy itself that material facts had not been presented, disregarded or omitted in the programme, and that this resulted in unfairness to the Sher Group.”
Similarly, in a second incident, Ofcom upheld Malhi’s complaint of unjust or unfair treatment in a programme as broadcast, made on his own behalf, and on behalf of the Sher Group. During the programme, the presenter was joined by two guests in the studio who talked, largely, about their negative experiences of the management committee of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Southall, west London.
Mr Malhi complained that he and the Sher Group were treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme because the programme alleged that he and members of the Sher Group:
• had conspired with a “thief” to steal thousands of pounds from donation boxes and that they were involved in the theft and in covering up for the thief;
• had threatened the contributor, Ms Kaur, and directly and indirectly harassed her; and would “put money in people’s accounts”.
Mr Malhi also complained that both he and the Sher Group were not given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the above allegations.
b) Mr Malhi complained that he was treated unjustly or unfairly in the programme because the programme alleged that he was behind a “discriminatory” message which had been sent to members of the public and contained inappropriate comments about the contributor. He also said that the programme also said that Ms Kaur had been informed by the police that Mr Malhi was under investigation.
Ofcom considered that the comments made by Ms Kaur in the programme amounted to significant allegations about Mr Malhi and the Sher Group. Therefore, in accordance with Practice 7.11, the broadcaster should have offered Mr Malhi and the Sher Group an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the allegations in order to avoid unfairness. KTV did not provide Ofcom with statement in response to this complaint and so did not provide us with any evidence that it had sought responses to the allegations from the complainants. Given that no reference was made in the programme to either Mr Malhi or the Sher Group being approached for comment, or to take part in the programme itself to respond to the allegations, Ofcom considered that the broadcaster had not sought a response from Mr Malhi and the Sher Group.
Ofcom concluded that KTV’s failure to provide such an opportunity to respond was unfair to both Mr Malhi and to the Sher Group.