LGBTQI+ activists gathered outside the office of TV9 Telugu on Thursday evening, to protest a recent story aired by the channel, with homophobic content. Those gathered for 'Queering TV9' included members of the Hyderabad Queer Swabhimana Yatra, Queer Campus Hyderabad and Mobbera.
The story, aired on the channel on December 25, was published on its YouTube channel with the title 'Gay culture on the rise in Telugu states.'
Though it was later taken down, the story suggested that youngsters were ‘turning homosexual’ because of mental stress or from watching pornography.
"The story is definitely worrying, as it is highly homophobic and insensitive. We are here to tell the channel that we are ready to speak to them, if they were willing to listen," said Andy, a protester.
Others pointed out that TV9 is a repeat offender, and had also drawn flak for similar content in the past.
Activists gathered with posters and stood on Banjara Hills road number 3, outside the TV9 office in silent protest from around 3pm to 4pm.
'Respect the privacy of LGBTQIA people', read one poster, while another declared 'I'm human.'
"Our main goal is to ensure that we are noticed by people passing by, and also by the media channel, following which we can have a conversation," one participant said.
"What about the damage they have done? They have aired such content, which has already been seen by several people who will think that what they are watching is right. They did not even seek to approach us," another participant added.
Activists also wrote a letter, planning to submit it to the media channel.
Stating that TV9 had "consistently projected LGBTQIA+ people in a very poor light", the letter requested that the channel change its manner of 'misconstrued' reporting about an entire section of people.
"We LBTQIA+ people of Hyderabad are human beings too! If you are concerned about increasing your TRP ratings, we suggest that you collaborate with us in sharing our stories of humanity, existence and need for love and dignity in our families and society. Rather than making our lives difficult, we would welcome a change in your attitude towards us. We are willing to share our personal stories to works towards bringing about positive change in society. If you need assistance with using language to address us, we are willing to teach you," the letter reads.
Within a short time, as people began gathering, the police also stepped in. After speaking to the protesters, the police escorted a few people inside the TV9 office.
After a brief talk, the channel said that it would record the statements of the activists and air them on the channel, as a corrective measure. The media channel gathered the protesters inside its office premises and took video bytes, promising to air them.
"The channel has been doing both good and harm for the community, and we wanted them to spell out their stand. Hopefully, this won't repeat again in the future," said Madhav, another participant.
The discriminatory programme, aired earlier this week, had drawn a lot of flak. "The gay culture in western countries, is now increasing in the Telugu states. A large number of youngsters are now turning homosexual," the anchor declared at the start.
The story then tried to ‘find out’ the ‘real’ reasons for the alleged spurt in ‘gay culture’ in both Andhra and Telangana.
While the reporter suggested that mental health problems could be the reason behind people ‘turning gay’, the channel also interviewed two doctors, one of whom claimed that there were two things to be considered while 'dealing' with homosexual persons.
The first being ‘trapping’ and ‘luring’ passive people into thinking that being gay is alright and okay. And the second are the Internet, social media and pornography.
Further, the story hailed organisations which give ‘treatment’ for ‘patients’ who identify themselves as gay.
The channel concluded with a suggestion to stop the 'spread' of gay culture, saying, “There is a need for youth to restrain from getting attracted to same sex, and they should be extremely cautious about the changes in the society or else the gay culture will further thrive.”
TV9 also used visuals of a Malayali gay couple who got married in California in April 2015 without their permission.