NEW DELHI: There was widespread hue and cry over the television news coverage of Bollywood actor Sridevi’s death in a Dubai hotel. The “mysterious” circumstances of her death was enough for the social media to hit out at TV channels — many netizens called the coverage the “death of journalism”.
However, apart from the social media ‘activism’ there has been no real action taken. The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has not received a single complaint regarding the “insensitive coverage”.
“The process of filing a complaint is very complex. Many people want to file a complaint but either they do not know the procedure or do not want to take the pains. Unless a complaint is filed, we cannot act on any issue,” an NBSA official said.
The formal procedure mandates a complaint be filed within seven days of the objectionable broadcast and requires the complainant to attach a recording of the content. Level 1 of the action dictates the broadcaster to settle the issue with the complainant. If it remains unsolved, then the complaint reaches NBSA, known as Level 2.
As many as 285 complaints were filed and resolved in 2017, of which 169 were settled at Level 1 and 21 at Level 2. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry was involved in 94 complaints, and the Election Commission in one. There has been a steady rise in the number of complaints 2015. The NBSA had received 193 grievances in 2015 while the number grew to 193 in 2016.
“Almost 80 per cent complaints relate to members or groups offended by media coverage against their community. Others are related to gory visuals of crime and death,” an NBSA official said.
Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with trolls against channels over their coverage of Sridevi’s death. Hashtags like #LetHerRestInPeace were trending and found celebrity endorsements. Tweets like ‘Dear indian media STFU #LetHerRestInPeace’ were doing social media rounds, but not a single complaint was filed.
“It is very easy to write something on social media and get away with it. There is an element of herd mentality. Everyone wants to be a part of the social media trends but no one wants to act upon it on real,” said Annie Joseph, secretary general of the NBSA.
“Most complaints have no credence and are disposed off without any action. The last complaint we acted upon was against a leading channel wherein the complainant had accused the broadcaster of enticing communal hatred by virtue of broadcasting a particular programme.”
Pallavi Laxmikanth, an Oxford-educated anthropologist, said, “It cannot be herd mentality. This is a new trend of attention deficiency. Social media is good, but this does not solve problems at the ground level. The alleged Sridevi’s death misreporting needs a formal solution. Passing judgements on social media will not help in anyway.”