Shandil and Apna Networks Ltd - 2006-049
- Joanne Morris (Chair)
- Tapu Misa
- Paul France
- Diane Musgrave
- Shalen Shandil
ProgrammeApna 990am first birthday talkback show
BroadcasterApna Networks Ltd
Complaint under section 8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
Special talkback show on Apna’s first birthday hosted by Programme Director – complainant was a former employee and telephoned the show – call disconnected – later caller told that the former employee’s employment had been terminated or he had resigned – allegedly in breach of privacy, inaccurate and unbalanced
Principle 3 (privacy) – no private fact disclosed – not upheld
Principle 4 (balance) – broadcast did not deal with controversial issue of public importance – not upheld
Principle 6 (accuracy) – broadcast did not deal with news and current affairs – not upheld
This headnote does not form part of the decision.
 On 30 April 2006, Apna 990am celebrated its first birthday and invited callers to express their views on air. The session was hosted by Apna’s Programme Director, Shahil Shah.
 At about 4.30pm one caller asked what had happened to talkback host Shalen Shandil. He was told that Mr Shandil had resigned. Shalen Shandil (the complainant) then telephoned. He was described by the host as a former staff member and his call was disconnected. In response to another caller, who spoke positively of the complainant’s ability as a talkback host and said that it would be a “grave injustice” not to talk about him, the programme director said:
I would like to make it clear. That staff and any personal staff that I have…who have been terminated from the job, or he is not working for me, or he was working for me, who has been terminated from the job, or he has resigned from the job. I will not like to talk to him, if he has got that…got the message clear. Please if he has time, come and see me, see me at [address and phone number given]. I am talking to listeners now. Thank you.
 Shalen Shandil complained to Apna Networks Ltd, the broadcaster, that the broadcast breached the standards relating to privacy, accuracy and balance. Mr Shandil described himself as a “news consultant” with Apna and said that he had “quit” on 29 April 2006, the day before the broadcast complained about. There was no formal contract between Apna and himself, he added.
 Mr Shandil contended first that, as a listener, he was entitled to contribute, and not be disconnected. Secondly, he argued that it was inaccurate to say his employment had been terminated as he did not have a formal contract. Thirdly, he contended that the reference to “termination” had breached his privacy.
 Mr Shandil nominated the following standards and guidelines in the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice:
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the privacy of the individual.
Broadcasters shall apply the privacy principles developed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority when determining privacy complaints.
Privacy principle 1
The protection of privacy includes protection against the public disclosure of private facts, where the facts disclosed are objectionable to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.
In programmes and their presentation, broadcasters are required to maintain standards consistent with the principle that when controversial issues of public importance are discussed, reasonable efforts are made, or reasonable opportunities are given, to present significant points of view either in the same programme or in other programmes within the period of current interest.
In the preparation and presentation of news and current affairs programmes, broadcasters are required to be truthful and accurate on points of fact.
Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant
 Apna declined to uphold the complaint and pointed out that Mr Shandil, in an email of 29 April, had said he did not wish to have any links with Apna, and did not want to discuss the matter further.
Referral to the Authority
 Dissatisfied with Apna’s response, Mr Shandil referred his complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority under s.8(1)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
 Mr Shandil insisted that Apna was “in breach of the ethics of media freedom”. He maintained that the talkback show was unbalanced as it was an advertorial for Apna rather than a current affairs programme.
 The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read a transcript of the exchange (translated into English where necessary) which referred to the complainant. The members have also read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.
Principle 4 (balance)
 Programmes which deal with controversial issues of public importance require balance. In the view of the Authority, a talkback session celebrating the broadcaster’s first birthday does not fall into this category. Accordingly, Principle 4 does not apply to the programme complained about and the balance complaint is not upheld.
Principle 6 (accuracy)
 Principle 6 states that accuracy is required in news and current affairs programmes. Again, a “birthday” talkback session does not fall into this category. Accordingly, the Authority declines to uphold the complaint that the broadcast was inaccurate.
Principle 3 (privacy)
 Privacy principle 1 protects against the offensive disclosure of private facts about an individual. Mr Shandil argued that the host’s statement that his employment with Apna had been terminated was a private fact and that its disclosure was offensive and breached his privacy.
 Having listened to the exchange, the Authority is of the view that the host made no clear statement about how Mr Shandil’s employment with the station had ended, and the specific circumstances for Mr Shandil’s departure remained unclear. The comments were confusing and could have been interpreted in a number of ways.
 In light of the confusion in the broadcast for the reasons for Mr Shandil’s departure, the Authority considers that the broadcast, beyond making it clear that Mr Shandil no longer worked for Apna, did not disclose any private facts. Accordingly, the privacy complaint is not upheld.
 Moreover, the Authority notes that Mr Shandil said it was incorrect to say that his employment had been terminated, as he had in fact resigned. The Authority has stated in two recent decisions that the broadcast of an untrue allegation cannot constitute a breach of privacy (see Decision Nos. 2005-049 and 2006-078). Accordingly, accepting Mr Shandil’s assertion that he resigned, rather than having his employment terminated, the privacy standard does not apply.
For the above reasons the Authority declines to uphold the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
27 November 2006
The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Shalen Shandil’s formal complaint about a broadcast on Apna Network Ltd –
28 June 2006
2 Apna Network Ltd’s response to the formal complaint – 16 May 2006
3 Mr Shandil’s referral to the Authority – 16 May 2006
4 Apna’s response to the Authority – 16 August 2006