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ASCI upholds complaint against ad denigrating Tamil channel anchors

Updated by admin on Wednesday, February 26, 2020 10:50 PM IST

Chennai: The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulating body of the advertising industry, has upheld the complaint of Madras Reporters Guild against the full-page advertisement of Zee Media Corporation Limited - Zee Hindustan Tamil channel on November 29, 2019, and has ruled that the ad “unfairly denigrates” three Tamil television channel journalist-anchors, Thiru S Karthigaichelvan of Pudhiya Thalaimurai, Ms Ashoka Varshini of Thanthi TV and Mr M Gunasekaran of News 18 Tamil channel as mentioned in the Guild complaint.

The complaint was considered by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) at their meeting in January 2020.

The ASCI has informed the Madras Reporters Guild that the print advertisement contravened Chapter IV.1(e) of the ASCI Code, and that the complaint has been UPHELD.

The ASCI has conveyed this ruling to the advertiser Zee Media Corporation Limited - Zee Hindustan Tamil channel. Messrs Zee Media Corporation Limited - Zee Hindustan Tamil channel, who initially took the stand that the advertisement had not violated any code, has finally accepted to comply with the order, and has informed the ASCI that the ad had been withdrawn.

“The ASCI had approached the advertiser for their response in addressing the grievances of the complainant and forwarded the details of the complaint, verbatim, to the advertiser with a request to respond to the same. The Advertiser was offered an opportunity for personal meeting/telecon with the ASCI Secretariat which they did not avail, but submitted their written response.”

“The advertiser in their response stated that the intention of their campaign was to present a channel free of anchors / presenters and promotion of the concept that the viewers need news and not views. In that context, they have begun an anchor-less news channel wherein no anchor views are presented to the viewers and it is upon the viewers to have their own independent opinion upon the news presented. The advertiser further asserted that the names used in the advertisement were generic in nature and any similarity of the same with any of the news anchors/presenters was a mere coincidence. The advertiser stated that names Gunasekaran, Karthigaichelvan and Ashoka's Aayudu Ezhuthu are generic names and which have been randomly used solely for the purpose of comparison between news presented by an Anchor and news presented without Anchor. Further, the complainant cannot claim distinctiveness qua generic names. The advertiser also provided the English translation to indicate that no specific reference was made to any anchor/presenter.

The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) viewed the print advertisement and considered the advertiser’s response. “The CCC did not agree with the advertiser’s contentions or the explanations given regarding the choice of names in the advertisement. The CCC observed that in the advertisement, the advertiser uses three names of people who all are prominent and well known anchors. Though the advertiser does not indicate any channel, the advertiser does refer to “anchors” and by such reference it provides a clear association to professionals working as anchors. Based on this assessment, the CCC concluded that the advertisement unfairly denigrates the anchors by referring to their names in the advertisement.

“The print advertisement contravened Chapter IV.1(e) of the ASCI Code. The complaint was UPHELD.

We have advised the advertiser to withdraw or modify the said advertisement by 17th February 2020. ……..

……..You may note that while ASCI believes in persuasion to ensure self-regulation in advertising content, in case of continued non-compliance, alternate remedies are available to industry members to approach an appropriate forum. 

Helen Dantis, Manager, Complaints Processing, The Advertising Standards Council of India, Mumbai.”

In its complaint dated December 2, 2019, the President of Madras Reporters Guild, R. Rangaraj, had pointed out that Zee Hindustan Tamil channel had released a full page advertisement on page one of Tamil daily Dinamalar in Tamil Nadu on November 29, 2019, for launch of this new channel in Tamil. However, the ad has prominently displayed in bold letters the names of news anchors/presenters of three other Tamil channels, namely Mr, Gunasekaran of News 18 Tamil channel, Ms Ashoka of Thanthi TV, Tamil channel, and Mr. Karthigaichelvan of Pudhiya Thalaimurai Tamil channel stating that the ‘voice of’ Mr Gunaekaran had been dimmed, that the programme of Aayudha Ezhuthu of Aashoka in Thanthi TV had come to a full stop, and that Mr. Karthigai Chelvan would become Old Generation (the name of his channel is Puthiya Thalaimurai or New Generation in English).

Any product can try to glorify itself, and can claim to be good outstanding, provided it has the basis of performance and acceptance. However, it is not done to try and discredit, damage and denigrate others, especially indulge in character assassination and vilify individuals, individual journalists working in other media organisations.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), established in 1985, is committed to the cause of Self-Regulation in Advertising, ensuring the protection of the interest of consumers. ASCI seeks to ensure that advertisements conform to its Code for Self-Regulation, which requires advertisements to be legal, decent, honest and truthful and not hazardous or harmful while observing fairness in competition.

Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)

ASCI’s Code of Self-Regulation in Advertising is appended in the Press Council of India’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct 2010 Edition. (Ref. Page 60, Appendix II).
Chapter IV of the ASCI Code specifies that there should be fairness in competition. Under chaper 4.1, comparisons with other products may be allowed only subject to certain conditions. For example, under 4.1, the following have been specified: provided
(b) The subject matter of comparison is not chosen in such a way as to confer an artificial advantage upon the advertiser or so as to suggest that a better bargain is offered than is truly the case.
(c) The comparisons are factual, accurate and capable of substantiation.
(d) There is no likelihood of the consumer being misled as a result of the comparison, whether about the product advertised or that with which it is compared.
(e) The advertisement does not unfairly denigrate, attack or discredit other products , advertisers or advertisements directly or by implication.
4.2. Advertisements shall not make unjustifiable use of the name or initials of any other firm, company or institution, nor take unfair advantage of the goodwill attached to the trademark or symbol of another firm or its product or the goodwill acquired by its advertising campaign.
In this case, the Zee Hindustan Tamil channel ad is in clear violation as it makes unfair and unsubstantiated comparisons and also seeks to denigrate names of anchors/presenters of other channels by name and in prominent display in block letters on page one of the newspaper Dinamalar in the ad.
This is an unfair charge against the three anchors and seeks to project that their shows would be wound up or would die an early death, which is an unfair statement, and seeks to show the other channels and other anchors in poor light. It would also seek to portray them in the eyes of the public that their careers and their programmes would end soon, which is a false and misleading statement, at a time when this new channel is just being launched and has no claim to spectacular success, or had wiped out the opposition.

The advertisment states as per this English translation that the voice of Mr. Gunasekaran had been deemed or become weak. That Ayudha Ezhuthu, the title of the programme in Thanthi TV of Ashoka anchor, had been brought to a full stop. That Karthigai Chelvan, the anchor of a show in Pudhiya Thalaimurai channel (translated to mean New Generation) would now be Old Generation.

The ad then goes on to give their email id and channel numbers in various platforms. This is a full page ad in a leading Tamil daily Dinamalar.

The Madras Reporters Guild, a professional organisation of correspondents, sub-editors and camerapersons, (of which I am the President) takes strong exception to such advertisements which tend to portray journalists in poor light, and seeks to target, name and denigrate individual journalists without any basis. While a person or a product can try to be good through advertising, such below-the-belt tactics should be avoided, particularly by media organisations.

In the name of competitiveness, advertisements should not seek to ridicule senior journalists or run them down, for narrow pecuniary gains. If a product is superior, it can be accepted as such by the public at large after a few months. However, claims of superiority even at the time of launching a product are being made in this instance by seeking to ridicule other media organisations and journalists, which is a clear violation of the standards laid down.

Channels and media organisations are within their right to claim superiority by quoting authentic figures of trade bodies which keep track of performance at various levels. That is not the case here at all.

Vague, biased and unsubstantiated claims are made in this ad without any rationale, scientific study or authentic trade body rankings or findings.

The Madras Reporters Guild feels it is highly unfortunate that names of senior journalists have been dragged in for the sake of product sales, apparently with an eye on sensationalism. Media organisations should desist from carrying or publishing such ads.

The Madras Reporters Guild urges ASCI to initiate immediate action against Zee Hindustan Tamil for resorting to such crude forms of advertising aimed at character assassination. The ASCI should conduct an enquiry into such acts so as to prevent them in future.

The Guild also urges the ASCI to issue a general advisory to the media not to publish such ads which are clearly contrary to the norms and guidelines laid down by ASCI.

The Madras Reporters Guild stands by the journalists named in this advertisement and is determined to protect their honour, esteem and dignity, which have been targeted in this unfair manner.

Complaint filed by R. Rangaraj, President, Madras Reporters Guild, Government Estate, Chennai 600002.
Mobile number 9841010821. email id: rangaraaj2020@gmail.com/

The Advertising Standards Council of India has conveyed that the Advertiser has agreed to Comply with the order and informed that the Ad has been withdrawn.



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