A day after Supreme Court raised the issue of sting operations by news channels, the electronic media claimed the operations were in ‘public interest’.
While opinion was sharply divided on the question of whether sting operations should be outsourced, broadcast journalists were unanimous on the need to verify the content of sting operations before going public with them.
QW Naqvi, director (news), Aaj Tak, said there was nothing wrong with outsourcing exposes if the channel owned the content and the editor was sure that the operation was ‘genuine’.
“It is a specialist job in which a news channel may not have expertise,” he explained. And added that outsourcing was not limited to sting operations. Programmes on entertainment channels are also outsourced, he said.
For Raju Santhanam, editor, Zee News, the credibility of a sting operation is more important than whether it is outsourced or not. “Every channel has their professional parameters and ways of checks and balances. The channels should ensure the stings are shown in ultimate public interest,” he said.
When it comes to sting operations, NDTV has a different policy. Sonia Singh, executive editor, NDTV 24X7, said: “We do not outsource sting operations. Credibility of the operations is most important to us. We, therefore, use our own reporters.”
Like most news channel heads, the man behind many sting operations including Tehelka’s defence expose, Anirudha Bahal, was of the view that carrying out string operations is a job of experts. But, he pointed out that it should be restricted to certain types of stories. “Sting operations can be justified for certain kinds of stories, like to expose an act of corruption in public interest,” he said.
Taking the debate further, Naqvi said some stories would be incomplete without sting operations as they provide credible evidence to viewers. “A story on a policeman taking bribe or adulteration of blood will lose its credibility if viewers are not shown the real misdemeanour,” he said.