News channel NDTV broadcasted a 32-minute promotional show detailing the achievements of the Telangana government under Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao disguised as news.
The 32-minute programme barely mentioned that it was paid content by the Telangana government. When the advertorial was published on the channel’s YouTube, it contained a marking ‘A Telangana Govt Initiative’ for about 10-seconds.
Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana Rashtra Samiti president K Chandrashekhar Rao has been chief minister of the state since then. His son KT Rama Rao is the second most powerful minister in the government after his father, K Chandrashekhar Rao.
The 32-minute show explained how Telangana has progressed in the last eight years under the leadership of Chief Minister Rao.
“It is an account of how the futuristic vision and dynamic leadership of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has proven that effective governance and empowering schemes are the only path to progress,” the show claimed.
The Press Council of India (PCI) and News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) guidelines explicitly mention that any such paid content must be differentiated from a news programme, and the broadcaster should inform the viewer about it.
The NBDA guideline says, “Every news broadcasting organization shall disclose conspicuously in an appropriate manner during the broadcast of a program, on their television channel/s and on their website/s, including during a news, current affairs, sports, entertainment or promotional broadcast as to whether the content of such broadcast has been paid for by or on behalf of the Entity that is the subject matter of such broadcast in any manner whatsoever; and whether such broadcast is an “advertorial” or other media marketing initiative.”
Prannoy Roy-led NDTV is a member of NBDA. Roy prides himself on running an ethical news channel.
The PCI’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct mentions, “Journalistic propriety demands that advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from news content.” The council’s guidelines are for print media.
Veteran journalist Kanchan Gupta, a senior advisor in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, flagged the issue of ethics in the NDTV programme. “This is not only against basic ethics of journalism but also violates extant broadcast code. NDTV is broadcasting Telangana Government propaganda as news. Anybody can make out this is an advertorial which should have been clearly marked as paid advertising or sponsored content,” he posted on Twitter.
Posting an 18-second clip of the programme on Twitter, he wrote, “More paid content by Telangana Government broadcast as ‘news’ by NDTV. Brazen violation of ethics of journalism and broadcast code.”
This is not the first time NDTV has done such an act. NDTV editors Sreenivasan Jain and Vishnu Som had been caught spreading fake and misleading news multiple times in the past.
On August 2 last year, NDTV Group Editor Sreenivasan Jain tweeted, “Breaking: the head of the Govt’s vaccine advisory panel Dr NK Arora tells me initial batches of Covaxin ‘were not of the right quality’.”
He tweeted this at 9:27 pm.
Dr NK Arora had discussed the quality check process of Covaxin in his programme Reality Check.
There was a social media protest about the fake news spread by Jain.
At 10:51 pm, Jain put out a clarification “As per Dr Arora, these doses from the initial batches with quality issues (manufactured at the Bangalore plant) were never sent out. The new batches have passed quality checks, he says.”
In January this year, NDTV Editor Vishnu Som questioned why expired vaccines were administered to adolescents.
The Covid-19 vaccination for adolescents in the age bracket 15-18 started on January 3. Made-in-India vaccine, Covaxin, developed and manufactured by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, was cleared for use for adolescents.
Gulf News columnist Navanita Varadpande had posted a tweet saying her son was administered an expired vaccine. When she confronted the medical staff, she was shown one letter declaring the shelf-life of the vaccine had been extended.
Editor Som, quoting Varadpande’s tweet, asked Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya on what basis it was done. He also declared the vaccines “expired”.
“On what basis is this being done @mansukhmandviya? Can the formal notification clearing expired vaccine for use on children please be released?,” Som had posted.
On November 3 last year, NDTV published a story headlined “Covaxin Gets Shelf Life Extension Of Up To 12 Months”.
The very first paragraph of the story read, “Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin has been granted an extension of shelf life for up to 12 months from the date of manufacture, the company said in a statement. The approval of an extension of shelf life by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) was based on the “additional stability data”, it had said.