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CNBC-TV18 Conversations: Can advertisers drive change in TV news content?

Updated : September 28, 2020 10:15 PM IST

"How can a free society allow such a programme?" This was the question asked by Justice Chandrachud when the Supreme Court heard a case against the broadcast of a programme on Sudarshan News TV channel. The controversial show in question titled "UPSC Jihad" claimed that Muslims are "infiltrating" Indian civil services.

The court observed, "How insidious is it to suggest one particular community is gaining entry into civil services?" The broadcast was stopped but the case is still pending before the apex court.

This was not the first instance of the court calling out what it deemed "toxic" or "hateful" content on TV news. In mid-march, when the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to grip India, a congregation by a Muslim group called Tablighi Jamaat dominated the headlines for days, being accused of deliberately spreading the infection in India.

Recently, the Bombay High Court disposed a case filed against Tabligi Jaamat, ruling that "there is a smell of malice" and they were made "scapegoats". The court said that the media-created image that these people were responsible for spreading COVID.

Globally, top advertisers decided to boycott Facebook as part of the Stop Funding Hate Campaign. While the campaign did not make a dent in the tech giant's revenues, it did hurt its reputation.

Back home as the Supreme Court takes up complex and challenging issues like regulating TV news, advertisers are starting to review decisions to ensure "brand safety."

CNBC-TV18 spoke to Shashi Sinha CEO of IPG Mediabrands, RS Sodhi MD of Amul and R Balki Filmmaker to discuss whether advertisers and brand custodians are worried about what's on the news? Will they look beyond ratings and let their brand purpose and values drive their spending decisions? And should advertisers dictate content?

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