The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has found that a section of the Punjabi talkback programme, Panthic Vichar, broadcast on 12 March on community radio station, Planet FM, breached its fairness standard.
During a talkback item, the host, Kuldip Singh, made a number of serious allegations about the conduct of the complainants and their involvement in a recent tournament for kabaddi, a team contact sport that originated in India. He implied that a kabaddi sports club was misusing grant money that had been paid for the benefit of the community, and that the complainants cheated or pressured referees to change the results of a kabaddi tournament semi-final.
At the time of broadcast, the host invited the complainants to phone in to the radio programme to clarify their position. The complainants were not given the opportunity to respond to the allegations prior to broadcast, or to have their views broadcast on air at the time the allegations were made.
The BSA upheld the complaint under the fairness standard, finding that the host’s comments reflected negatively on the complainants and they should have been given an opportunity to respond. The invitation to call in to the broadcast, at the time the adverse comments were made, was not sufficient to discharge the broadcaster’s obligations under the fairness standard.
The BSA recognised that the issues covered in the programme carried public interest for the target audience. It recognised that the expression of ideas, however critical or unpopular, on matters of public interest to the community is fundamental to free speech principles. However, the authority says that where the host’s comments had the potential to adversely affect the complainants, the complainants should have been given the opportunity to respond, prior to broadcast, to the negative comments made about them.
The decision was made under the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice.