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What Indian media should learn from BBC

The BBC will today apologise to an estimated 74 million people around the world for a news fixing scandal, exposed by The Independent, in which it broadcast documentaries made by a London TV company that was earning millions of pounds from PR clients which it featured in its programming," reported The Independent. More details on the incident here.

Since then, the BBC has apologised. In a 90-second explicit apology broadcast on Saturday, the BBC explains exactly why the apology was required. The apology is in clear, readable text with an equally clear voice-over.

Please do take a couple of minutes to view the apology here.

None of the breaches has broken a law — yet the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee has deemed the transgressions deserving of the unequivocal apology. The apology was scheduled so that viewers of the BBC would have an opportunity see the apology wherever they were in the world – including on cruise ships and in aircraft.

That’s the importance that the BBC Trust attaches to rules and guidelines – which were indeed breached. The BBC apologised for breaking "rules aimed at protecting our editorial integrity".

The apology was scheduled so that viewers of the BBC would have an opportunity see the apology wherever they were in the world – including on cruise ships and in aircraft. Reuters

For new media outlets, the preservation of a reputation of high editorial integrity is key to building viewership – and driving advertising and subscription revenues. For the BBC, which has, over decades, built a reputation for unbiased and credible coverage, the apology is a necessity to protect their considerable investments.

Compare this with India, where transgressions such as paid news, unwritten quid pro quos and conflicts of interest are routine, resulting in short term revenue gains.

While the transgressions are many, let’s take a look at just one of them – making errors and mistakes. Here’s what the Press Council’s norms say on the issue:

“When any factual error or mistake is detected or confirmed, the newspaper should suo-motu publish the correction promptly with due prominence and with apology or expression of regrets in a case of serious lapse.

"The newspaper should promptly and with due prominence, publish either in full or with due editing, free of cost, at the instance of the person affected or feeling aggrieved/or concerned by the impugned publication, a contradiction/reply/ clarification or rejoinder sent to the editor in the form of a letter or note.”

The BBC takes their own rules and guidelines seriously. That’s what convinces them that an apology of the kind that it has made is necessary.

When will we see Indian news outlets believing that credibility and integrity is their most valuable stock-in-trade – and that apologising when required is an essential component in building credibility and integrity?

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