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24 Mar 2011

TV9 fined, ordered to broadcast apology on 3 days for 'gay exposé'

The Standards Authority has determined that TV9 had “needlessly violated the right to privacy of individuals with possible alternate sexual orientation, no longer considered taboo or a criminal act”, and ordered the channel to pay a fine and broadcast an apology.

India’s News Broadcasting Standards Authority has fined TV9 for broadcasting an 'investigative' story that exposed the identities and personal information of nearly a dozen men who had their photographs and personal details on a gay personals website. The video by TV9 also featured two recorded telephone conversations between the reporter and two men who had listed their phone numbers on the website. The men, whose profile photographs were shown on screen, were asked to reveal their names, occupations, university, sexual preferences and where they live.

Protesting against the TV9 story in Bangalore, 28 Feb 2011

Gay rights groups quickly held protests in various cities and filed a complaint with both the TV channel and broadcast regulators after the 7-minute long story was aired by the Telugu-language TV channel in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad on 22 February.

According to the order dated 21 Mar 2011 and made public by gay website gaysifamily.com, the Delhi-based Standards Authority determined that TV9 had violated its broadcasting code with regards to sex and nudity, privacy and sting operations; and ordered the channel to pay a Rs. 1,00,000 (US$2,230) Rupee fine.

Screenshots of the TV9 news report which was uploaded to the TV station’s own Youtube channel on Wednesday. The video has since been removed by Youtube. The photographs have been pixelated by Fridae to protect the privacy of the men featured in the video.

The Standards Authority also ordered the TV Channel to broadcast an apology in prime time both in English and in Telugu to be run on TV9 news channel on three consecutive days between 8 and 9pm in English and between 3 to 4pm in Telugu with the following text (to be translated):

“TV9 apologizes for the story "Gay Culture Rampant In Hyderabad” telecast on this channel on 22nd February, 2011 from I5:11 hrs. to 15:17 hrs. particularly since the story invaded the privacy of certain persons and was in violation of the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards of the News Broadcasters Association. Any hurt or harm caused to any person thereby is sincerely regretted.”

Aditya Bondyopadhyay, a lawyer and Director of LGBT rights group Adhikaar, who filed a complaint against TV9 detailing the exact violations that the channel had breached and spearheaded a publicity campaign, said he is happy with the outcome. 

"It is a victory for the community and and we all should celebrate. But at the same time we all should now also become more vigilant that no such violation is done by any other media house in the future, and if they do, we protest and we bring bring it to the notice of the NBSA. 3 cheers to all who worked and protested. We came together as a community and we won."

In its defence, the broadcaster said it “had no intention of criticising the gay culture, but had sought to bring-out through investigative journalism that (innocent) people were being enticed to illegal and unlawful activities”. TV9 also claimed that the news story “was intended to warn the society at large and the concerned families of the murky affairs in the gay culture.”

The order, which was signed by Justice [Retired] S Verma, however determined that: “In effect what the content of the Programme clearly did was; instead of carrying a ‘crime story’ it merely carried evidently a gratuitous depiction and reportage of homosexuality among men without any underlying serious message for the society; the Programme needlessly violated the right to privacy of individuals with possible alternate sexual orientation, no longer considered taboo or a criminal act; and the Programme misused the special tool of a "sting operation" available only to subserve the larger public interest.”

Justice [Retired] S Verma also disagreed with the broadcaster’s claim that the names, pictures, images, phone numbers and other particulars of persons featured in the Programme were in public domain since they were on a website (planetromeo.com).

“(T)he said website has an open/public section which gives general information about the activities etc. that are conducted on the said website but does not contain particulars and pictures of individuals; and there is a separate members area, access to which is controlled by a membership identity and password to access which one would need to enroll as a member of the said website. While the names, particulars and photographs etc. of individuals may be available in the said members only section, it cannot be said that such names, particulars and photographs are therefore available in the public domain.”

The order can be read here.

A news story about the gay community's outrage to TV9's 'investigative' report


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-03-24 21:37  
i am so happy that India is doing something about the discrimination and hate.

hope that many more countries will follow suit.

2. 2011-03-24 23:19  
TV9 - It serve you right to be fined and apologize. Glad that India's LGBT group stands out for it. ^^
3. 2011-03-25 00:18  
Kudos to India, but why can't the hacks at Fridae locate where the story is in the first paragraph and/or title instead of leading readers to skim and scan for what real journalists provide?
Comment #4 was deleted by an administrator on 2011-03-25 12:14
Comment #5 was deleted by an administrator on 2011-03-25 12:14
6. 2011-03-25 01:37  
India is progressive.
7. 2011-03-25 01:55  
"Any hurt or harm caused to any person thereby is sincerely regretted.”
I HATE passive voice. It denies respnsibility and is mushy wussy talk. Really the TV station execs should be in jail, where they can practice their "passivity" to a 300 kg "boyfriend".
8. 2011-03-25 04:21  
justice served, but the fine should be more than Rs. 1,00,000 (US$2,230)!
9. 2011-03-25 04:22  
Very interesting .Recently a television channel got hold of the story of the New South Wales Transport Minister David Campbell coming out of a well known gay sauna late at night, and he was made to resign, even though he was perfectly entitled to visit it, and his privacy should have been protected. Kristina Keneally the premier felt smug about getting a tick for family values and her (on again off again, selective) use of the Catholic faith.

Our limp broadcasting authorities said that the public interest in the matter outweighed his privacy. Really? It has seldom picked on Labour politicians for their sexual private lives before, including ex prime ministers who dress well, act very bullying and collect French antiques.

Was it because David was an easy target as a cuddly big bear man whom many of you Asian boys would love to hug? Also not in the mood to sue anyone? And a seemingly decent man who performed his transport portfolio better than most in a state Labour government full of clowns. I thought he deserved better. He should have been in India! Incidentally a car called a Maruti would always get a grin and a wink Down Under here!
10. 2011-03-25 07:43  
Thanks to the court. Justice has been served, but damage can never be recover........
11. 2011-03-25 11:21  
Well done. Cheers !
12. 2011-03-25 12:55  
Hmmm an independent judiciary.. how novel in Asia.. well done india
13. 2011-03-25 14:12  
Hooray for India!!
14. 2011-03-25 15:43  
Great job. But one thing though, what will the tv do to the people they 'outed'? The damage has been done, and I don't think a mere public apology will be enough for them.
15. 2011-03-25 22:49  
Still do not know why people give their phone number on world wide websites and expect privacy?
16. 2011-03-26 10:12  
Wish that can be done on TV3 Malaysia, and local media that broadcast the raids at our sauna places last year....

i like what the India say that "it's not for public, but required membership".so its wrong for the local media here, to ever broadcast members on public TV or in the paper....that intrude privacy of individual..

Comment edited on 2011-03-26 10:13:25
17. 2011-03-26 11:28  
Kudos to India judicial system. They have matured enough to interprete the law accordingly and the salute to the judge that have the guts to carry out the law and not follow what is dictated by public opinion. How I wish Malaysia's judges have such balls!
18. 2011-04-14 01:17  
I agree Bloody Cherry #8. $2000 may be a lot for the average Indian, but not for a large TV channel. The fine should have been ten times the amount. As an Indian, I am happy to read all the kudos coming in, but there is still some way to go .. we just have to look north to see how far Nepal has come....

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