The UK's media watchdog has suspended the licence of Khalsa Television Limited to broadcast in the country after an investigation found its KTV channel breached broadcasting rules with Khalistani propaganda.
The Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced its decision this week after serving a suspension notice to the company over a Prime Time' programme, broadcast on KTV on December 30 last year, for a breach of the Broadcasting Code with content likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime or lead to disorder. The communications regulator said the 95-minute live discussion programme included material likely to incite violence.
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The presenter of the programme made a number of statements throughout the programme which, taken together, promoted violent action, including murder, as an acceptable and necessary form of action to further the Khalistani cause. This was a serious breach of our rules on incitement of crime and disorder, Ofcom said in a statement. Given the serious nature of this breach, and for the reasons set out in our suspension notice, we are today suspending Khalsa Television Limited's licence to broadcast in the UK with immediate effect, the statement from Thursday reads.
Khalsa Television Limited now has 21 days in which to make representations to Ofcom. Following this process, it will decide whether to revoke Khalsa Television Limited's licence. KTV is a television channel broadcasting largely to the Sikh community in the UK under a licence held by Khalsa Television Limited. In February, the channel received Ofcom's "Preliminary View" notice and in representations objected to its translation and analysis of the programme. Ofcom said this failed to provide any substantive details of the objection and offered it another chance to respond last month.
In its representations, the KTV reiterated that the programme in question did not contain an incitement or call to violent action in breach of Rule 3.1 and provided an example of what it said was Ofcom's misunderstanding of the words used by the presenter. Given the urgency and seriousness of the investigation and the time that the Licensee (KTV) had already been offered to provide its full written representations, Ofcom did not consider it appropriate to delay matters further.
Ofcom noted that the Licensee would have a further opportunity to make written and oral representations should we decide to suspend its licence, the suspension notice reads. During the Suspension Period, the Licensee, KTV Ltd, must not broadcast the KTV service. Pursuant to section 13 of the 1990 Act, failure to comply with this Suspension Notice by broadcasting the KTV service during the Suspension Period would amount to a criminal offence, which is punishable by an unlimited fine, it notes.
Ofcom has previously also taken similar action against the channel, including in February last year when it imposed a total fine of GBP 50,000 on the channel for broadcasting a music video and a discussion programme that was deemed an indirect call for British Sikhs to commit violence and also contained a terror reference. On its website, KTV describes itself as an exciting channel, airing a range of cultural, educational and entertaining programmes for audiences of all ages. It says it prides itself in being completely independent, impartial and honest.