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Paid News: BBC, CNN, CNBC flouting journalistic standards

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

International broadcasters including the giant BBC repeatedly broke the Ofcom code by screening programmes funded by foreign governments, charities and NGOs, an investigation has revealed recently. Ofcom has uncovered nearly 50 breaches of its code by CNN, CNBC and the BBC after a four-year inquiry into the global news  channels, The Independent reported.

As a mater of fact, the Ofcom codes on due impartiality states that news, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. Also, the funded broadcasting as per Ofcom codes leads to “inherent risk to independence and editorial integrity”.

The media regulator discovered a series of infringements of its impartiality guidelines and found that hundreds of nominal-fee programmes had been paid for by bodies ranging from United Nations departments to the Indonesian ministry of trade and a Cambodian casino firm.

It said the practice carried “inherent risk to independence and editorial integrity” and it has ordered an “industry-wide” meeting of news networks to address the matter.

The Ofcom probe, the biggest it has undertaken into television content, began after an investigation in 2011 by The Independent, which revealed that a London-based media company that had received millions of pounds from the Malaysian government for public relations work was making documentaries for the BBC on the subject of Malaysia.

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The Independent also detailed how the company, FBC Media (UK), had close ties to the American networks CNN and CNBC. Ofcom reported that both broadcasters had broken its rules on due impartiality. The regulator said it would now draw up new “best-practice guidelines” for broadcasters so that “viewers can continue to be confident in the independence of factual programming”.

The broadcaster most criticised in the findings was CNN International, which was found to have broken the code 26 times, including breaches of both the impartiality and sponsorship rules.

John Defterios, one of CNN’s leading business presenters, was a director and president of FBC from 2007 until 2011. Defterios conducted interviews on CNN with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, in 2010 and 2011 on the shows Marketplace Middle East and Quest Means Business. John Defterios, a CNN presenter, was a director of FBC Media, which took money from the Malaysian state.

Given that “the government of Malaysia had been a client of FBC”, Ofcom ruled that “FBC’s relationship with the government of Malaysia and Defterios’s relationship with FBC would have called into question the due impartiality of the interviews”. It identified a third breach of impartiality rules in an interview Defterios conducted with the governor of Malaysia’s central bank, also on Marketplace Middle East.

Ofcom also found CNN in breach of impartiality rules over a 2009 interview by Defterios with Gamal Mubarak, son of the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian government’s investment authority, Gafi, was another FBC client.

The regulator also found CNN had committed more than 20 breaches of its code on sponsorship by failing to properly declare content funding by organisations ranging from the Singapore Economic Development Board to Macedonia Tourism.

In a statement, CNN said: “We welcome Ofcom’s conclusion that the way our programmes were funded did not compromise CNN International’s editorial independence.” It added that “we … accept that a very small portion of our sponsored content fell under what Ofcom categorises as current affairs, which under UK regulations may not be sponsored”.

The BBC was found to have breached Ofcom’s code on sponsorship 20 times on its World News channel, where it featured programmes underwritten by funders ranging from the Aga Khan Foundation to the International Diabetes Foundation and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. BBC World News, the broadcaster’s 24-hour global news channel, handed Ofcom details of 186 programmes supplied to it for no cost or a nominal sum (typically £1).

The regulator asked the BBC to “explain in full its practice of accepting free or nominal-cost programming and broadcasting this without sponsorship credits”. The BBC replied that this practice dated back to 1991 when World News began.

The BBC defended itself by arguing that it invariably included a “thanks to” message to the funder in the credits for the programme. Ofcom said this was insufficient.

One programme, Architects on the Frontline, was paid for by the Aga Khan Foundation, a not-for-profit development organisation set up by one of the world’s wealthiest men, and featured the boast that the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was “widely recognised as the most prestigious in its field”. Ofcom said the fact that a programme’s “interests are humanitarian and highly laudable” did not mean it was exempt from rules on declaring sponsors.

Another BBC programme, Stealing the Past, covered the traffic in stolen antiquities and featured interviews with Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, the UN body which funded the documentary.

Ofcom’s investigation into FBC’s programmes for the BBC was hampered by the fact that the company went into liquidation months after The Independent exposé. The regulator could not find evidence that FBC specifically spent money from the millions it received from the Malaysian government on programmes it made for the BBC about Malaysia “as opposed to non-television public relations and lobbying activity”.

The BBC had previously broadcasted an on-air apology for the scandal, which was the subject of “extensive internal investigation”, it told the regulator. “We know that FBC had a PR relationship with Malaysian clients and as such we fully accept that it was not an appropriate producer of the programmes it produced for BBC World News,” it admitted. “We acknowledge that a conflict of interest existed here, in breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines and that this relationship could have undermined our editorial independence.”

The BBC said last night that it had already strengthened its procedures to protect editorial integrity. “We are pleased that Ofcom welcomes the steps we continue to apply to prevent further issues and we look forward to working with Ofcom and the other broadcasters to develop best practice guidelines to help maintain compliance with the Code in this complex area.”

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15 Facts To Know About Arnab Goswami and Republic TV

. Since last year, Arnab has been running his own TV channel by the name of Republic TV which was much awaited by the viewers.

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Arnab Goswami started his career in 1994 with ‘The Telegraph’ as a journalist. Wikimedia Commons
Arnab Goswami started his career in 1994 with ‘The Telegraph’ as a journalist. Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI: Arnab Goswami is a well-known name, who has revolutionized the way Indian media practices journalism. Many people call him as a grammar Nazis and for some, he stands out to be an intellectual person. Arnab Goswami is a person, who is isolated and loved at the same time.

For past many years, Arnab was the front face of Times Now and was handling the role of an anchor in a live debate show. It was the time when people started following him due to his blunt questions and courageous approach. Now, since last year, Arnab has been running his own TV channel by the name of Republic TV and was much awaited by the viewers.

Let’s take a look at some of the interesting facts related to Arnab Goswami and Republic TV:

1. Arnab Goswami started his career in 1994 with ‘The Telegraph’ as a journalist. He worked there for less than a year then shifted to Delhi and joined NDTV 24X7 in TV News Broadcast. Later down the lane, Arnab joined NDTV’s core team as a news editor.

Arnab Goswami is a person, who is isolated and loved at the same time. Wikimedia Commons
Arnab Goswami is a person, who is isolated and loved at the same time. Wikimedia Commons

2. Arnab Goswami has the distinction of having a degree from Oxford University. After completing his schooling, Arnab took up BA (Hons.) in Sociology from the Hindu College of Delhi University. Then in 1994, he concluded his Masters in Social Anthropology from St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. Due to his outstanding intellect, he was granted as a Felix Scholar in Oxford. Arnab was also honored with the position of Visiting D C Pavate Fellow at the International Studies Department at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University.

3. Soon after the September 11 attacks in 2001, Arnab came up with his first book, “Combating Terrorism: The Legal Challenge.” Here he summed up all the legal issues in framing laws against terrorists and terrorism. Other aspects included the legal solution for terrorism. Arnab also compared India’s anti-terrorism laws with those in the West, specifically the United Kingdom.

4. Arnab Goswami belongs to a political family. His father, Manoranjan Goswami is a retired army officer and a BJP member. Manoranjan has contested as a BJP candidate in the Indian general election, from Guwahati. His Paternal Grandfather, Rajani Kanta Goswami was a lawyer and Congress leader.  And his Maternal Grandfather, Gauri Sankar Bhattacharya was a communist and leader of the opposition for many years in Assam. So, we can count his attributes of political knowledge well.

Republic TV becomes the first Indian news channel to Livestream Star India’s Hotstar. Wikimedia Commons
Republic TV becomes the first Indian news channel to Livestream Star India’s Hotstar. Wikimedia Commons

5. Being a journalist, Arnab’s First Ever TV Interview was with Congress leader, Sonia Gandhi. His this interview got him accolades for bringing the otherwise reticent Sonia Gandhi for an interview on TV.

6. Arnab’s role model is a famed musician, Shri Bhupen Hazarika. He is a legend in Assam and is known for his multicultural identity. Arnab was very much fond of Hazarika songs. Once, Arnab himself went to Calcutta, just to just to experience a thrill of the singer’s deep-throated voice.

7. Arnab Goswami has posed for the cover of Good Times magazine in September 2012 edition.  Good Times is a lifestyle magazine from the Northeast and covers the lifestyle taste of different regions.

8. Arnab was always a big fan of BBC and CNN. He wanted to run in the footsteps of these renowned channels. Once, he even quoted in an interview with Good Times, “I do dream that at some time in the future, our country will have a channel like BBC or CNN which is going to be broadcast to the world and if such an opportunity arises, I would certainly like to play a role in it.”

9. According to IndiaToday’s report, Arnab Goswami has Ranked 46th in the Mighty Power List. He was chosen on the basis of his debate topics on social causes like corruption, misgovernance, and terror. On the list, he ranked ahead of Arvind Kejriwal and many others.

10. After working at Times Now for 10 years, he resigned in 2016 and started his own TV channel, Republic TV.

11. Arnab himself is the managing director and co-founder of the Republic TV which was launched in 2017. The channel’s website (republicworld.com) also went live on the same day.

Arnab is the managing director and co-founder of the Republic TV. Republic TV
Arnab is the managing director and co-founder of the Republic TV. Republic TV

12. Republic TV became the first Indian news channel to Livestream Star India’s Hotstar.

13. S. Sundaram is the CFO of Republic TV. He was the former CFO of Times Now and joined Arnab after he released the channel.

14. Interestingly, Republic TV is a FREE TO AIR channel. It means that the channel is covered in the basic channel package and cable operators have to air it for free.

15. Arnab Goswami received the Ramnath Goenka Award for Journalist of the Year in 2010.

 

In the span of almost two decades, Arnab Goswami has already added a lot of feathers to his hat. But many a time, he has also been at the receiving end of People, who criticize him for his adamant way of speaking and not letting others speak on his debate shows. Also, he is been known for passing out his personal judgments in many cases, which is certainly not a healthy journalist practice.