NBDSA Guidelines

India Today Incident- NBDSA Guidelines

What Happened?

LGBTQIA+ lives often become fodder for Indian media’s habit of sensationalism. While there are those like journalist Ragamalika Karthikeyan at The News Minute, who actively champion queer affirmative action through the ‘Inqlusive Newsrooms’ project, there is a disheartening contrast to this as well, i, like the recent incident of India Today. There was not only misrepresentation of the LGBTQIA+ community but the channel also leveraged misinformation, reinforcing queerphobic stereotypes within the mainstream Indian audience.

In June 2023, India Today’s program titled “Nudity sparks outrage at USA pride parades – How India’s LGBTQ+ lead responsibly” stirred controversy as it reportedly featured visuals deemed “totally out of context” by the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA). The program showcased images of the LGBTQIA+ community, including three topless individuals, labeled as engaging in “indecent exposure.” The anchor, Pooja Shali, claimed that these individuals were banned from events, and an apology was issued by the White House. However, LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Indrajeet Ghorpade, founder of the advocacy group “Yes, we exist, India” filed a complaint, arguing that the persons were trans folx displaying their top surgery scars, which, according to DC law, did not constitute indecency.

Additionally, Mr. Ghorpade accused India Today of using unrelated images, such as those from the Federation of Canadian Naturists, and presenting them as if they were related to the LGBTQIA+ community. In response, the channel defended the program, stating that it celebrated diversity, supported the Pride Movement, and aimed to portray responsible and inclusive pride parades in India. Mr. Ghorpade lodged a complaint with the NBDSA, emphasizing that the channel furthers a narrative that brands the Indian queer movement as “elitist” and a “Western concept.”

NBDSA on the incident

The National Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) conducted a thorough examination of the broadcasting incident and determined that the use of visuals and images taken out of context violated the accuracy principle outlined in the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards. In response, the NBDSA advised the broadcaster, India Today, to use factually correct images and emphasized strict adherence to ethical broadcasting standards. As corrective actions, the NBDSA, under the leadership of former Supreme Court judge Justice AK Sikri, directed India Today to edit the video by removing objectionable segments. Alternatively, if editing proved unfeasible, the directive mandated the removal of the video from the broadcaster’s website, YouTube, and social media platforms within seven days. This decision aimed to uphold accuracy in media content and ensure responsible broadcasting practices aligned with ethical standards.

Furthermore, beyond addressing this specific complaint, Justice AK Sikri and the NBDSA took a proactive approach by establishing comprehensive guidelines for media platforms when reporting on LGBTQIA+ issues. These guidelines emphasize sensitivity and accuracy in portraying LGBTQIA+ matters, aiming to promote fair representation, combat stereotypes, and contribute to a more informed and respectful discourse surrounding LGBTQIA+ topics in the media. This dual action underscores the NBDSA’s commitment to ethical broadcasting and fostering inclusive media coverage.

NBDSA Guidelines 

These NBDSA Guidelines provide a framework for accurate and sensitive reporting on issues concerning the LGBTQIA+ community. They emphasize the importance of avoiding sensationalism, hate speech, and privacy violations while promoting inclusivity and diverse representation in media coverage. 

  1. Avoid Sensationalizing and Perpetuating Stereotypes
    • Broadcasting should not sensationalize or create panic, distress, or undue fear among viewers regarding LGBTQIA+ issues. 
    • Broadcasters must avoid news that sensationalizes LGBTQIA+ community issues. 
  1. Prevention of Hate Speech: 
    • Refrain from using any form of expression that targets, vilifies, ridicules, dehumanizes, reinforces prejudices, stereotypes, advocates violence, or engenders hatred against LGBTQIA+ individuals. 
    • Avoid using expressions or slurs that may be construed as hate speech against the LGBTQIA+ community. 
    • Ensure reporting does not promote homophobia, transphobia, or negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA+ community. 
  1. Respect Privacy and Use Inclusive Language: 
    • Do not intrude on the private lives or personal affairs of LGBTQIA+ individuals without a clearly established larger public interest. 
    • Honour privacy as a fundamental right, respect the privacy of LGBTQIA+ individuals, and do not disclose personal information without consent. 
    • Use inclusive and gender-neutral language, respect pronouns and names of LGBTQIA+ individuals. 
  1. Diverse Representation and Platform for Voices: 
    • Strive for diverse representation while reporting on LGBTQIA+ issues. 
    • Ensure voices from different segments of the LGBTQIA+ community are provided a platform to express their views. 

Media and Problematic representation of LGBTQIA+ community 

Media representations of LGBTQIA+ individuals wield substantial influence in shaping societal attitudes and perceptions towards the queer community. When these depictions are inaccurate or rely on stereotypes, they have the potential to perpetuate harmful biases and misconceptions. This, in turn, can contribute to the reinforcement of negative stereotypes, which may fuel discrimination, prejudice, and, in extreme cases, lead to hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

The media holds a significant responsibility to portray LGBTQIA+ people in a fair, accurate, and respectful manner. By showcasing the diverse identities and experiences within the queer community, the media plays a crucial role in combating ignorance and promoting understanding among the general public. When media representations are limited in their perspective, , or stereotypical, they fall short of reflecting the true diversity of LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

Hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ individuals often find their roots in misconceptions, biases, and stereotypes perpetuated by the media. When media representations portray queer people as deviant, abnormal, or deserving of discrimination, they inadvertently validate and justify discriminatory actions. This underscores the critical need for responsible and accurate media portrayals of LGBTQIA+ individuals to counteract harmful stereotypes, promote acceptance, and foster the creation of a more inclusive and tolerant society. 

In India, there’s a concerning rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community, involving physical assault and verbal harassment. Victims often endure homophobic, transphobic, and racial abuses from the police. Illustrative incidents include a cross-dresser resembling Goddess Kali being stabbed in Delhi and a mob attacking trans women in Hyderabad based on a false WhatsApp forward. In Mumbai, MNS workers brutally beat trans women, falsely accusing them of prostitution. These incidents underscore the alarming rate of hate crimes, contradicting principles of acceptance, love, and human rights. Authorities’ inadequate response and political parties’ insincerity worsen challenges for marginalised groups. Urgent social awareness and community unity are needed to combat discrimination and uphold fundamental human rights. 

Need for proper implementation of the NBDSA Guidelines 

The proper implementation of NBDSA guidelines is crucial for fostering accurate and sensitive reporting on LGBTQIA+ issues. These guidelines highlight the significance of steering clear of sensationalism, hate speech, and privacy violations while actively promoting inclusivity and diverse representation in media coverage. To adhere to these principles, broadcasters must avoid sensationalizing LGBTQIA+ issues, refraining from content that may create panic or reinforce negative stereotypes. Hate speech is strictly prohibited, urging media outlets to use language that respects the LGBTQIA+ community, preventing the promotion of homophobia, transphobia, or negative stereotypes. Furthermore, the guidelines highlight the importance of respecting privacy, using inclusive language that respects a queer person’s pronouns, and providing a platform for diverse voices within the LGBTQIA+ community. Implementing these guidelines ensure responsible and respectful reporting, contributing to a more inclusive and informed media discourse. 

Written by Akanksha Singh (Reviewed by Usri

Comments are closed.