India Today pulled up for misleading images on LGBTQIA+ community in its show

The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) issued five specific guidelines to be followed in covering LGBTQIA+ related news, apart from the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines.
Anchor Pooja Shali of India Today presenting the program
Anchor Pooja Shali of India Today presenting the program Screengrab | YouTube/India Today
Written by:

The News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) has pulled up India Today for using visuals and images of the LGBTQIA+ community “totally out of context.” The authority has also issued specific guidelines to be followed by the media platforms while broadcasting information about the LGBTQIA+ community and asked the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) to circulate it among all its editors and members. NBDSA passed the order on February 28 after hearing a complaint filed by LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Indrajeet Ghorpad on a programme aired by India Today called "Nudity sparks outrage at USA pride parades - How India's LGBTQ+ lead responsibly." Indrajeet contended that the programme contravened the principles of “accuracy, neutrality, objectivity, good taste, decency, and others.”

The broadcasting authority stated they had received several complaints on the portrayal of LGBTQIA+ community. In order to sensitise broadcasters and bring objectivity, the broadcasting authority issued five specific guidelines to be followed in covering LGBTQIA+ related news, apart from the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards and Guidelines.

> Broadcasters must avoid broadcasting any news which sensationalises the issues related to the LGBTQIA+ community, perpetuates stereotypes or creates undue fear in respect of the community.

> Broadcasters must refrain from using any expression or slurs which may be construed as hate speech against the LGBTQIA+ community. While reporting any issue concerning the LGBTQIA+ community, broadcasters must ensure that reporting does not promote homophobia, transphobia or negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA+ community.

> Broadcasters must respect the privacy of LGBTQIA+ individuals and not disclose personal information, including gender identity or sexual orientation of a person without their consent.

> Broadcasters, while reporting on any member of the LGBTQIA+ community, must endeavour to use inclusive and gender-neutral language and respect the individuals' preferred pronouns and names.

> Broadcasters, while reporting on any issue concerning the LGBTQIA+ community, must strive for diverse representation and ensure that voices from different segments of the LGBTQIA+ community are provided a platform to express their views.

Speaking to TNM, Indrajeet said that while petitioning against the programme, he also wanted them to release some guidelines, specific to reporting LGBTQIA+ issues. “It becomes easier for them to understand and easier for people like me to fight such cases. Once the guidelines are in place, we don't have to establish homophobia or stereotyping each time. So I had proposed guidelines in context of the case,” he said.

What is the case about?

Indrajeet, founder of LGBTQIA+ advocacy group Yes, We Exist, filed a complaint on June 30, 2023, against the said India Today programme, alleging that it was full of “factual inaccuracies” and that it intended to “spread fear and demonise” LGBTQIA+ people. The video titled “Nudity sparks outrage At USA pride parades: How India's LGBTQ+ lead responsibly” was purportedly about a pride march in the United States of America. However, Indrajeet, in his complaint, stated that the visuals were not from the pride event but from an event hosted by the White House. The channel has responded saying that they had only said that it was a “family event” and that charges were framed against the three persons. 

In the video, the anchor explains an image on the screen of three persons topless and calls it “indecent exposure” and claims that three persons were “banned from events after they posed topless” and that the White House had to issue an apology for the same. Indrajeet contended that the three persons were in fact a trans woman and two trans men showing their top surgery scars and that it was not indecency under DC (District of Columbia) law. He also stated that there were no charges against the three as claimed by the channel.

He also pointed out another image of the Federation of Canadian Naturists, a nudist group, used by the channel, and said that they were not an LGBTQIA+ group. “It's a very old image that is pulled up every Pride month by homophobic people to spread hate and fear,” he said. He added that another decade-old image was also used in the video.

Stating that a simple reverse image search can help separate facts from fake news, he said that the broadcasters were “either incapable of fact-finding or had mala fide intent to sensationalise and spread fear against minority communities.”

The channel denied and responded to each of the allegations by Indrajeet and claimed that “when the entire impugned broadcast is seen as a whole and in its full context, the video is a celebration of diversity in sexual orientation, and it promotes the Pride Movement while lending unabashed support to the community.” Further, it also claims that the intention of the programme was to “say that the pride parades in India were organised in a responsible, dignified and inclusive manner.”

A hearing of both parties was held on October 6, 2023, with advocate Vrinda Bhandari appearing for India Today. When NBDSA questioned the broadcaster about their usage of unrelated images in the programme, she argued that a  search for such reports, showed “these images of the USA appear in the result.” She also argued that the programme broadcasted “the concerns of some conservative groups and parents in the USA in response to the LGBTQIA+ movement, particularly trans activism, in schools and compared the situation with India.”

This is not the first time a media outlet has been held responsible for insensitivity while reporting LGBTQIA+ issues. NBDSA, in April 2022, pulled up two Telugu news channels – TV9 Telugu and Sakshi TV – for sensationalising a police raid on a house party in Hyderabad after neighbours complained of loud noise. In the media report, they broadcast visuals of those attending the party, violating their privacy and outing their sexual orientation and gender on television without their permission. This case was also filed by Indrajeet.

Read: Telugu channels demonise LGBTQIA+ persons on air, let off with just a warning

NBDSA order

The NBDSA, after hearing both parties, ruled that using visuals and images totally out of context, which were not part of the incident covered, was a violation of the principle of accuracy as enshrined under the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards. “NBDSA decided to advise the broadcaster to use factually correct images and ensure strict adherence to the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards in future broadcasts,” it said.

It further directed India Today to edit the video of the said programme by removing the objectionable parts or if that is not possible, to remove the video from its website, YouTube and social media within seven days of the order.

Also Read: Broadcasting authority slams Times Now, News 18 for ‘love jihad’ narratives

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute