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Authority finds Planet FM talkback programme unfair

17 December 2019

The Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has found that a segment on Punjabi talkback programme, Panthak Vichar, broadcast on community radio station, Planet FM, breached the fairness standard.

The BSA received complaints from two separate complainants. During the talkback segment, the host made a number of allegations against the complainants related to their trustworthiness and the legitimacy of their fundraising activities. As part of the segment, the host played a recorded phone conversation with one of the complainants and an unidentified third party on air.

The complainant was not informed that the recording would be played on air. Planet FM upheld the complainant’s complaint in the first instance and in an attempt to address the breach gave an undertaking to air a comprehensive apology, which was not met with the actual apology broadcast. The BSA acknowledged the broadcaster’s efforts but noted: “When undertakings are given and not met, this risks compounding the harm.”

The BSA upheld both complaints under the fairness standard. It found that the host’s actions and comments reflected negatively on the complainants who should have been given an opportunity to respond.

The BSA added that there was no public interest in broadcasting the recorded phone call and the complainant’s actions could have been scrutinised in the same way if the complainant was informed that the call would be broadcast and given an opportunity to comment on the call.

The BSA recognised the importance of the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and that it is in the public interest to raise questions about leadership and the validity of fundraising efforts: “However, where the expression of critical ideas might adversely affect individuals or organisations referred to in a broadcast, a key principle of the fairness standard is that those individuals or organisations referred to should be given a fair and reasonable opportunity to comment in response.”

The Authority did not make any orders. It considered that the publication of the decision was sufficient to publicly notify and censure the broadcaster’s conduct.

ENDS

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