The News Broadcasting Standards Authority, a self-regulatory body, has fined the IBN18 Broadcasted Limited - owners of the CNN-IBN and IBN 7 channels - Rs. 1 lakh, holding that a news report aired last year about the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust was "inaccurate" and "biased".
The order came on a complaint by the trust against a news story aired on both the channels in August last year, which gave an impression that the trust was involved in a dubious land-acquisition deal in Haryana for a proposed charitable eye hospital.
The panel said the reports were an example of "sensationalisation" with the purpose of promoting and improving the image of the channels, which was "unethical journalism".
In its order on the news reports titled 'Gandhi trust flouting law' and 'Rules bent to aid Gandhis', the broadcast authority said the trust did not get any exemption to acquire any land, as was reported by the channels.
It also held that the channels carried only once a "truncated version" of the trust's views, while repeat telecasts did not carry the versions at all.
It also held the trust was not the "subject matter" of an issue involving 850 acres of land in Gurgaon, as had been reported. The gram panchayat had leased only about 8 acres.
The NBSA also held that the reports had incorrectly reported that 65 petitions before the Punjab and Haryana high court alleged that the trust had "swung the deal" in its favour, whereas only one petition had mentioned the trust, which too did not make any such allegations.
The NBSA also held that editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN Rajdeep Sardesai sought to build up sensation by tweeting about the story in advance, rejecting the argument that the tweets were only personal.
"We have committed ourselves to a self-regulatory mechanism. Therefore, we respect the order," Sardesai told HT.
IBN18 contended that considering the format of television news story, the channels had carried the trust's versions to the extent possible.
The channels also said the repeat telecasts did not carry additional clarifications of the trust due to an error by the "technical team", which "misunderstood editorial directions".
The NBSA observed that a news story had to be judged on the basis of the overall impression, perception and impact that viewer gets on a plain viewing of the broadcast.