So far only television channels had been inviting Government ire over programme content or comments, with some even being taken off air. Now, Red FM is in trouble over its RJ Nitin’s comments on the recently crowned ‘Indian Idol’ Prashant Tamang, which have been deemed ‘racist’ in nature.
The I&B Ministry has issued a show cause notice to Red FM, giving the station time till 4 pm on October 1 to explain why action should not be taken against it.
The notice issued on September 29, 2007, stated, “It has been brought to the notice of the Government by the West Bengal State Government and others that the permission holder of FM radio broadcasting station in the city of Delhi, namely Digital Radio (Delhi) Broadcasting Ltd., in their FM radio channel, Red FM, being aired on 93.5 FM, has carried a programme on September 24, 2007 in which an RJ has made derogatory remarks about the Gorkha community, consequent upon the selection of Prashant Tamang as ‘Indian Idol’ in a Sony Entertainment Television show.”
The notice further stated that the Gorkha community had reacted strongly to these remarks, protesting the stereotyping as racist and insulting. General strikes had been called in several places like Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sukna in protest, and to maintain law and order Army and paramilitary forces were required to be deployed. In Siliguri, it had led to violent clashes between communities leading to loot, arson and injuries to several persons. Police had to open fire and curfew was imposed to bring the situation to normalcy.
As per para 11.2 of the Grant of Permission Agreement, radio stations are supposed to follow the Programme Code of All India Radio, which prohibits any programmes attacking communities, anything defamatory, incitement to violence and anything against law and order. The notice stated, “From the sequence of events, it is prima facie evident that the remarks are in violation of the Programme Code of AIR and hence, the permission holder should explain why action should not be taken against them.”
Meanwhile, Red FM had also issued a statement on September 29, 2007, which said, “Red FM hails Prashant Tamang’s victory in ‘Indian Idol’ and has been supporting his entire journey right from the start. As soon as we got to know that a section of the people have misinterpreted some of the statements in our show as being insulting, we have proactively cleared our stand. We have not intentionally caused hurt to the sentiments of any person or any particular community, caste or creed. However, in the event any inadvertent slight or offence has been caused to the sentiments of any person or community, we tender our apology for the same. We had done so on air on September 28, 2007 as well.”
The statement added, “We also take this opportunity to categorically state that we as an organisation have the highest regard for all communities, sects, religions, and it has never been our intention to cause any offence to any community or to hurt any sentiments of any person or community. We would continue to subscribe to the Programme Code and ethics and keep producing award winning and popular programming interlaced with humour and wit.”
Red FM is expected to explain the situation to the Ministry on Monday, October 1. The Ministry will give a final word on this soon after.