Taking errant News Broadcasters to task How to file a complaint against news channels airing hateful or inciteful content

12, Jul 2018 | Abeera Dubey

It is not new to see news channels, created to broadcast an honest and unbiased view of the world to the masses, tumbling in their work. Some news channels now are presenting aggressive, biased and allegedly dishonest content to the public on a regular basis. These news channels are required to follow a certain set of standards in their broadcasts according to the guidelines of News Broadcasters Association (NBA).

The NBA then set up a News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), a separate and independent body (from NBA) to consider and adjudicate upon complaints about broadcasts. This body was subsequently renamed News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA).


News Broadcasters Association 

News Broadcasters Association, set up in the year 2008, is a private association of various news broadcasters in India. The association was set up to deal with ethical, operational, regulatory, technical and legal issues affecting news and current-affairs channels. Currently, NBA has 21 member networks, representing more than 100 news channels. The channels besides covering mainstream Hindi and English news channels, also cover a wide range of regional news channels. According to the 10th Annual Report (2016-17) of the NBA, the membership of NBA commands 80% of the viewership in the country.

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There are a set of standards that have been voluntarily drawn by NBA members to demonstrate their commitment towards responsible broadcasting.

A News Channel is required to maintain the following standards while reporting:

  1. Ensure impartiality and objectivity in reporting
  2. Ensure neutrality
  3. Ensure that when reporting on crime, that crime and violence are not glorified
  4. Ensure utmost discretion while reporting on violence and crime against women and children
  5. Abhor sex and nudity
  6. Ensure privacy
  7. Ensure that national security is not endangered
  8. Refraining from advocating or encouraging superstition and occultism
  9. Ensure responsible sting operations

News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority

News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) that was subsequently renamed News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) is an independent body set up by the News Broadcasters Association. Its task is to consider and adjudicate upon complaints about broadcasts. Any complaint against the broadcasting of any news channel can be addressed to NBDSA.

With increasing instances of News channels failing to live up to the above mentioned standards, here’s a guide on how to file complaints against inappropriate News Broadcast.

Who can make a complaint?

Anyone aggrieved can make a complaint to the News Broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) against a member or associate member of NBA.

Procedure before filing the complaint with NBDSA

Before filing a complaint before the NBDSA, the complainant is required to make a formal complaint to the concerned broadcaster.

The complaint to the Broadcaster is to be made to the Legal Head of the concerned Broadcaster, whose specific designation, address and other correspondence details is available on the websites of the NBA and of the concerned Broadcaster.

This has to be done within seven days time of the Broadcast.

Procedure for filing a complaint with NBDSA

  1. After making a complaint to the concerned Broadcaster, the complainant is required to wait for a period if 7 days for a reply from the Broadcaster.
  2. If the Broadcaster does not respond within the given period, a complaint can then be made to NBDSA within 14 days from the expiry of the above period.
  3. In case the Broadcaster responds to the complaint in the given time and the complainant is not satisfied with the reply, the complaint can then be made to NBDSA within 14 days from the date of receipt of the reply.

Requirements for making a complaint to NBDSA

Following are the requirements to be mentioned in the complaint while making a complaint to the NBDSA.

A.) Copy of the complaint sent to broadcaster.
B). Copy of reply received from the broadcaster.
C). Name and Address of the broadcaster.
D). Specify the news item and programme.
E). Date, time and channel of broadcast.
F). Short summary of what the complainant is aggrieved of, in   particular what precept of the Code has been breached.
G). All relevant documents to support it.

  • There is also an online Complaint form available to assist complainants. ‘Complaint form’ is available on the NBA Website. The complainant is required to fill this form and submit their complaint to NBDSA.

Examples of Complaint Redressal by NBDSA

A number of individuals have resorted to this remedy of complaint redressal. Gauhar Raza, a noted poet and scientist lodged a complaint against Zee News in 2016 for distorting and manipulating his poems to give them a different and false nature. the erstwhile NBSA directed Zee News to pay Rupees 1 lakh to Gauhar Raza and telecast a public apology during Prime Time to him.

In another case, the erstwhile NBSA took suo moto action against Republic TV for repeatedly showing dead body of Sunanda Pushkar. The NBSA was of the opinion that the broadcaster had violated the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage dated 10.2.2009 which states “The dead must be treated with respect. Close-ups of dead or mutilated bodies should not be shown …”  NBSA decided to close the matter with a warning to the broadcaster and that any future violations would be viewed seriously and action would be taken against the broadcaster.

Hate and Inciteful Speech can also be complained against. If any content is against what the NBA proclaims it’s Objectives are Citizens Must Campaign!

See CJP’s Campaign Against Hate Speech. Donate Now!

Guidelines issued by NBDSA

The NBDSA, has over the years, issued guidelines to its members for them to follow, which are binding upon them. Pointing out the violation of the Code of Ethics or any specific guidelines always makes for a strong basis to move against a News Channel.

The first go-to document should be the Code of Ethics and Broadcasting Standards that emphasises upon the role played by electronic news media and lays down certain fundamental principles.

The Code of Ethics may be read here:


Another document is the Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage that reinforces principles of accuracy, fairness, neutrality, privacy and so on.

The Specific Guidelines Covering Reportage may be read here:


The rest of the documents pertain to specific types of coverage such as Guidelines on Broadcast of Potentially Defamatory Content, Guidelines on Reportage of Cases of Sexual Assault, Guidelines affecting public order and Guidelines to prevent communal colour.

The Guidelines on Broadcast of Potentially Defamatory Content may be read here:


The Guidelines on Reportage of Cases of sexual Assault may be read here:


The Guidelines affecting public order may be read here:


The Guidelines to prevent communal colour may be read here:


The NBDSA issues such guidelines from time to time and there many such specific guidelines which may be accessed here.


(*The writer is an intern with CJP)


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