UK media watchdog fines Khalsa TV for violence, terror references

PTI, Feb 13, 2021, 9:51 AM IST

London: The UK’s media watchdog has imposed a total fine of 50,000 pounds on Khalsa Television Limited or KTV in Britain for broadcasting a music video and a discussion programme that was an indirect call for British Sikh to commit violence and also contained a terror reference.

The Office of Communications (Ofcom), the UK government-approved media regulatory authority, issued the order on Friday following its findings dating back to February and November 2019.

Its order also includes a direction for the channel to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings on a date and in a form to be determined by the watchdog and also for KTV not to repeat the music video or the discussion programme found in breach of its rules.

“Ofcom has imposed financial penalties of 20,000 pounds and 30,000 pounds on Khalsa Television Limited in relation to its service KTV for failing to comply with our broadcasting rules. The 20,000 pounds penalty relates to a music video. The 30,000 pounds penalty relates to a discussion programme,” the Ofcom decision states.

On July 4, 7 and 9 in 2018, KTV broadcast a music video for a song called ‘Bagga and Shera.’ Following its investigation, Ofcom found that the music video was an “indirect call to action for Sikhs living in the UK to commit violence, up to and including murder.”

It also included brief flashes, which, when slowed down, revealed frames of on-screen text. It appeared to be seeking to influence viewers by conveying a message to them or otherwise influencing their minds without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred, which Ofcom found was in breach of its rules of the broadcast.

The discussion programme in question was aired live on March 30, 2019, as ‘Panthak Masle.’

Ofcom found that the programme provided a platform for several guests to express views which amounted to “indirect calls to action and were likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime or lead to disorder.”

“Ofcom also found that it included a reference to the proscribed terrorist organisation the Babbar Khalsa, and which in our view could be taken as legitimising it and normalising its aims and actions in the eyes of viewers,” it notes.

KTV is a television channel broadcasting largely to the Sikh community in the United Kingdom under a licence held by Khalsa Television Limited.

Ofcom conducted its investigations after receiving complaints that the music video and discussion programme was likely to “encourage or incite crime or violence.”

The music video in question contained an image of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which Ofcom noted: “emphasised the video’s narrative of advocating violent action against the Indian state.”

The discussion programme, being broadcast in Punjabi, meant Ofcom had to commission an English translation.

It said that KTV was notified about the investigation and did not initially raise accuracy issues but later did, resulting in a second translation.

It concluded that KTV failed to ensure that material which was “potentially highly offensive to viewers” was justified by the context and therefore in breach of its code.

On its website, KTV describes itself as an exciting channel, airing a range of cultural, educational and entertaining programmes for audiences of all ages. It says it prides itself in being “completely independent, impartial and honest.”

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