NBDSA issues guidelines to broadcasting channels on reporting LGBTQIA+ issues - Hindustan Times
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NBDSA issues guidelines to broadcasting channels on reporting LGBTQIA+ issues

By, Geet N
Mar 07, 2024 06:36 PM IST

The NBDSA said that it was necessary to highlight stereotypes used as a part of anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, such as the usage of the term “grooming groups”.

The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has issued an order setting out guidelines for media networks while broadcasting on issues concerning the LGBTQIA+ community.

The media fraternity needs to duly follow guidelines issued by NBDSA and the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards. (PTI) PREMIUM
The media fraternity needs to duly follow guidelines issued by NBDSA and the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards. (PTI)

In its order, NBDSA pulled up India Today for “using visuals and images totally out of context” and held that the broadcaster violated the principle of accuracy under the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards.

The order was passed after hearing the complaint filed by LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Indrajeet Ghorpade who approached NBDSA regarding a programme titled ‘Nudity Sparks Outrage at USA pride parades – How India’s LGBTQ+ lead responsibly’, aired in 2023 by India Today. He firmly asserted that the programme “contravenes the principles of accuracy, neutrality, objectivity, good taste, decency, and others.”

Details of the complaint

Ghorpade in his complaint filed on June 30, 2023, alleged that the said programme was “full of factual inaccuracies and intended to spread fear and demonise LGBTQ+ people.”

Ghorpade stated that one of the videos, which the anchor claims to be from USA Pride, was from an event organised by the White House. The broadcaster responded that this was mentioned as a “family event”. Further, the anchor, while showing the images of a trans woman who was celebrating with two trans men showing their top surgery scars stated that this was indecency and that charges were filed against the three of them for the same reason.

Ghorpade negated the claims of any charges against them and suggested that India Today should educate itself by reading what “top surgery scars”, “trans joy” and “free the nipple" meant. The broadcaster responded, saying that they were merely reporting that this act of the three trans activists created outrage in the society.

One of the images of the Federation of Canadian Naturists, a nudist group, was used by the channel. Ghorpade said that they were not an LGBTQIA+ group. “It's a very old image that is pulled up every Pride month by homophobic people to spread hate and fear,” he stated.

The response

The media group responded to each of the allegations and strongly denied each and every one of them. They stated, “When the entire impugned broadcast is seen as a whole and in its full context, the video is a celebration of diversity in sexual orientation, and it promotes the Pride Movement while lending unabashed support to the community.”

The broadcaster also claimed that the programme intended to “support the LGBTQ community”, and to “say that the pride parades in India were organised in a responsible, dignified and inclusive manner” which were “extremely civil, awe-inspiring and a ceremonious celebration of inclusivity and diversity.”

Details of the NBDSA order

NBDSA, after hearing both parties, held that the broadcaster used “visuals and images totally out of context, which were not part of the incident covered”. The NBDSA also said that news channels have a “potent influence” on public opinion and it was necessary to highlight stereotypes that were in negative light used as a part of anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, such as the usage of the term “grooming groups” to address queer people.

NBDSA directed the broadcaster to (i) use factually correct images and (ii) edit the video by expunging the objectionable parts. If editing was not possible, NBDSA directed India Today to remove the video and all hyperlinks from every platform.

NBDSA issued additional guidelines for broadcasting on issues concerning the LGBTQIA+ community. While doing so, NBDSA noted that since several complaints concerning reporting on the LGBTQIA+ community have been received, it becomes necessary to take care of the sensitivity of the issue and bring objectivity while broadcasting such issues.

It must be noted that these guidelines are issued in addition to the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards. The guidelines issued by the NBDSA are explained below:

1. Broadcasters must avoid broadcasting any news which sensationalises the issues related to the LGBTQIA+ community, perpetuates stereotypes or creates undue fear in respect of the community.

2. Broadcasters must refrain from using any expression or slurs which may be construed as hate speech against the LGBTQIA+ community. While reporting any issue concerning the LGBTQIA+ community, broadcasters must ensure that reporting does not promote homophobia, transphobia or negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA+ community.

3. Broadcasters must respect the privacy of LGBTQIA+ individuals and not disclose personal information, including gender identity or sexual orientation of a person without their consent.

4. Broadcasters, while reporting on any member of the LGBTQIA+ community, must endeavour to use inclusive and gender-neutral language and respect the individuals' preferred pronouns and names.

5. Broadcasters, while reporting on any issue concerning the LGBTQIA+ community, must strive for diverse representation and ensure that voices from different segments of the LGBTQIA+ community are provided a platform to express their views.

A similar case

A similar incident was reported by The News Minute where NBDSA had warned two Telugu news channels, TV9 Telugu and Sakshi TV, for their reportage about the queer community in Hyderabad in November 2021.

These channels had done a heavily promoted report about a police raid on a house party after neighbours complained of loud noise. They also broadcast visuals of those attending the party, violating their privacy and outing their sexual orientation and gender on TV. However, the authority only issued warnings to these channels without any penalty.

NBDSA’s recent actions

Recently, NBDSA had taken action against several television news programs for their role in spreading hatred and communal disharmony. Considering the frequent instances of irresponsible reportage, the NBDSA, in these cases, observed that generalisations of incidents “targeting the entire community” are violative of the principles of Impartiality, Objectivity and Neutrality under the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and the Specific Guidelines covering Reportage relating to Racial and Religious Harmony. The media fraternity needs to duly follow guidelines issued by NBDSA and the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards.

Prashant Bhaware, a lawyer and researcher, writes about the finer legal points of a case that's making news.

Geet N is a chartered accountant, arts facilitator and theatre artist and identifies as a queer person.

The views expressed are personal

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