Why this ruling by BBC’s internal watchdog educates us on media ethics

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The BBC’s internal watchdog, BBC Trust, recently found one of the corporation’s high-profile journalists, Laura Kuenssberg, guilty of misleading her audience on a flagship news programme.

Kuenssberg had shot to fame through her relentless coverage on the 2008 economic recession with her reportage earning her plenty of plaudits from British audience. Last November, she was named journalist of the year by the Press Gazette.

BBC's internal watchdog

The Trust concluded that Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor, had inaccurately attributed comments to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on shoot-to-kill policies in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Paris.

The regulator, according to Media Gaurdian, found that the journalist, while appearing on the channel’s News at Six programme in November 2015 was guilty of breaching the broadcaster’s impartiality and accuracy guidelines.

Corbyn during the interview with Kuenssberg (watch below) had said, “I am not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counterproductive.”

However, when she went on air, the journalist presented it as if Corbyn having said that he will be “happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack.”

As the video suggests, Corbyn had made his comments in a different context and not in response to the question on Paris-style attack. In fact, in response to the question on Paris-style attack, Corbyn had not committed himself.

It was in the follow up question asked by Kuenssberg for his comments in general on shoot-to-kill policies when Corbyn said that he wouldn’t be ‘happy with a shoot-to-kill’ policy.

The recent ruling by the BBC’s internal watchdog against the corporation’s award-winning journalist assumes significance in light of an utter deterioration in media ethics in India, where channels have thrown impartiality and professionalism out of the window.

While BBC was busy censuring its own high-profile journalist for merely presenting her guest’s comments out of context, a man called Arnab Goswami, was announcing how his next media venture will be a truly nationalist outlet.

Speaking at an event attended by Maharashtra chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, the former Times Now journalist said, “For how long will we allow the BBCs and the CNNs to define what should be the narrative in global media…It’s time for the media to openly say that we are biased for the country. A media that’s embarrassed to take a stand between India and Pakistan and pretends to be a bridge-maker doesn’t defend the interest of this country.”

 

 

It’s extraordinary that while BBC’s internal regulator was indicting its own journalist for just presenting facts out of context, a journalist (read Goswami) aiming to challenge the monopoly of the reputed British broadcaster by urging journalists to be biased.

And Goswami is not a lone proponent of media biases. An overwhelming majority of his colleagues in Indian TV industry have faced public ire for letting a certain ideology influence their editorial judgement.

This becomes more apparent in the election season with channels competing with each other to broadcast manufactured content and poll surveys to influence voters in favour of a certain political party or alliance- usually the one with deep pockets.

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