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Commentary: Why is Arnab Goswami-led NBF lying about being the first and the only government-recognised industry body?

Moreover, what is the use of ‘so-called’ accreditation or government recognition if an industry body displays such unruly behaviour like an unbridled individual?

In a letter to BARC India CEO Nakul Chopra last week, the Arnab Goswami-led News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) was caught inaccurately boasting about being the largest, first and the only government-recognised industry body.

The NBF made similar claims in a press statement dated August 20, 2021. “In a massive development, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has officially recognised the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF)’s self-regulatory body. The granting of official status by the MIB to the NBF makes the body the only institution of its kind in the entire nation to get the accreditation from the Government of India,” NBF had stated.

Back then, had chosen to ignore the claims. But when the publication came across the latest letter written to Chopra, with a similar assertion, it decided to call out the misleading claim.

It is a well-known fact that the Government of India has been recognising television industry bodies such as the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) for decades. Whenever the Government wanted any legal representation from the news industry, it officially involved NBA, and the status remains unchanged.

The self-regulatory bodies of these associations were directed to comply with the new Cable TV Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021.

IBF’s self-regulatory body is the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), NBA’s self-regulatory body is the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) and NBF’s body is the Professional News Broadcasting Standards Authority (PNBSA).

While the self-regulatory bodies of IBF and NBF – BCCC and PNBSA – complied with the amended rules, NBA chose to contest it in the Kerala High Court. It secured an order from the court, which said the government shall not take any coercive action against NBA member channels.

According to details available on the ministry’s website, BCCC was registered on July 7, 2021, and PNBSA was registered on August 17, 2021. This implies that PNBSA was not even the first registered self-regulatory body under the amended rules.

Technically speaking, the two self-regulatory bodies are registered with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

But as far as industry bodies are concerned, there is no such “first and the only government-recognised industry body”, as claimed by NBF.

Unbecoming of an industry body

The NBF letter sent to Chopra not only was full of misleading claims, it also spoke the language of Arnab Goswami, insulting the oldest news television industry body that claims to command 80% of news viewership across the country.

The NBF, in a bizarre manner and Goswami’s tonality, became the government itself when it refused to recognise the Rajat Sharma-led NBA, calling it a so-called ‘industry body’.

The letter said, “NBF is cognisant of the fact that a few entities, who chair the board of a so called ‘industry body’, are gratifying their self-interest by seeking further pause in ratings, thus putting the larger industry welfare at stake. These handful national channels have dropped in pecking order just before the ratings were stalled. However, since ratings were stalled, they have been able to hold onto their competitive advantage in advertising rate.”

Going by NBF’s logic, will all journalists without PIB accreditation be called ‘so-called journalists’?

It is unbecoming of an industry body to show disrespect for any other entity and makes NBF a proprietary company of Arnab Goswami. Moreover, what is the use of ‘so-called’ accreditation or government’s recognition if an industry body displays such unruly behaviour like an unbridled individual?

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