File Photo
File Photo

As India's high muck-a-muck news networks Republic TV and India Today virtually wage war against each other, it seems like Twitter has turned into their preferred battleground platform to spar over words.

With actions unbecoming of professional news media in a tumultuous democracy, both networks are apparently engaging in juvenile jibes, political blame games, and overall, a mockery of responsible news culture.

After the India Today Group shared an official statement pertaining to the Bombay High Court staying the BARC order against it, the social media team at Republic took it upon itself to throw some shade at their newfangled contender. "Sounds perplexing," wrote Republic while sharing the statement by India Today, followed by two casual emoticons as presumably a means to drive home the puerile "gotcha!" moment.

Notably, the Bombay High Court has directed TV Today Network Ltd, which runs the news channel India Today, to deposit Rs five lakh, the fine imposed on it by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), in the court registry.

The court said that if India Today deposits Rs five lakh fine amount in the registry of the court, then the question of the BARC taking any coercive action does not arise.

The statement posted by the India Today Group today pertains to the recent Bombay High Court order, but also puts a spin to it in a manner that is typical to India's rhetoric-laden news channels. The statement merely highlights the fact that the High Court stayed the order passed by the BARC disciplinary committee and directed that "no coercive action be taken subject to a deposit of Rs 5 lakh in the court."

As is evident from the statement, any layperson reading it would assume that the High Court stayed the order because it is agreeing with India Today's contention that the BARC order was "without an appropriate quorum and without presenting the evidence, among other things..." when in fact, it was definitely not so.

A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav on Thursday heard the petition filed by TV Today Network Limited challenging the July 31, 2020 order passed by the disciplinary council of BARC imposing the fine for alleged viewership malpractices.

Petitioner's counsel Veerendra Tulzapurkar sought an interim relief from the court, seeking a direction to the BARC not to take any coercive steps pending hearing of the plea.

BARC's counsel Ashish Kamat opposed the grant of interim relief.

The Bench simply said that it would hear the plea on November 5 and directed the network to deposit the amount of Rs. five lakh, which is the cost fixed by BARC so as to not undertake coercive action.

The BARC had on April 27 issued a show-cause notice to the petitioner after the statistical data provided by BARC's Measurement Science Team allegedly showed an abnormal and inexplicable increase in viewership.

Finding the media group's response unsatisfactory, the BARC on July 31 asked the network to pay Rs five lakh as fine.

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Free Press Journal