Explained: How Khalistani propaganda cost a channel its licence in the UK

Khalsa Television Limited surrendered its licence to broadcast in the UK earlier this week on June 21 after an investigation by the country’s media regulator found that its channel, Khalsa Television (KTV), had breached broadcasting rules with Khalistani propaganda. The channel, which has faced hefty fines for violating broadcasting regulations in the past as well, has been off air in the UK since March 31. What led to the cancellation of its licence?

What is Khalsa TV?

Khalsa TV or KTV is a television channel broadcasting largely to the Sikh community in the United Kingdom under a licence held by Khalsa Television Limited. Its tagline is ‘Nidar, nidharak, hak ate sach di awaaz (Fearless, determined, voice of your rights and truth)’. It claims to broadcast in 136 countries.

KTV was officially launched in the UK with a ceremony at Guru Nanak gurdwara at Birmingham on January 22, 2017.

The card read, “Our brand new purpose built facilities will be bringing you new programmes, concepts and personalities for the Punjabi community.’’

On its website, Khalsa TV, aka KTV Global, describes itself as the UK’s newest and most exciting Panjabi channel catering to the Sikh diaspora and airing a range of cultural, religious, educational and entertaining programmes for audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

“We aim to deliver only the best in programming using the latest broadcast technology from our purpose-built studio setting in West Bromwich,’’ claims the channel.

It also says it actively supports NHS and local charities in UK besides Pingalwara in India.

Why did KTV’s licensee Khalsa Television Limited surrender its licence to broadcast in the UK?

Khalsa Television Limited surrendered its licence to broadcast in the UK on June 21 after an investigation by the country’s media watchdog, Office of Communications (Ofcom), found that the KTV had breached broadcasting rules by beaming incendiary and separatist propaganda in a programme called Prime Time, which was beamed on December 30 last year. Ofcom investigation found that the show “promoted violence, including murder, as an acceptable and necessary form of action to further the Khalistani cause”.

Ofcom raised the red flag early this year following three complaints about Prime Time, a 95-minute live discussion on December 30. The complainants alleged that the presenter of the programme Jagjit Singh Jeeta – a social media post describes him as the CEO of the channel – made a number of statements which, when read together, promoted violence for the cause of Khalistan.

Ofcom, in its report, said, “The presenter, Jagjit Singh Jeeta, opened the programme with a monologue regarding the progress of the Sikh secessionist cause towards the creation of an independent state of Khalistan since Operation Bluestar in 1984, during which he set out his view that the current leadership of the Sikh community lacked the courage or drive to take the necessary action to achieve this aim.”

The regulator noted how time and again, he heaped ridicule on “Khalistanis” living abroad for doing nothing and exhorted them to accompany him to Punjab to attain their goal.

Ofcom sent its “Preliminary View” notice to the channel in February. The latter objected to its translation and analysis of the programme. KTV claimed that the programme did not contain any inflammatory statements, and provided an example of how words used by the presenter may have been misunderstood. But Ofcom maintained that KTV could not prove its point.

KTV went off air on March 31, when Ofcom suspended the licence held by Khalsa Television Limited.

Ofcom then sent a draft revocation notice to the channel on May 26, following which it surrendered its licence on June 21.

Is it the first time that the British media regulator has taken action against KTV?

This is not the first time that KTV has fallen foul of Ofcom regulations. An Ofcom statement said this was the third time in four years that programmes beamed by the channel had violated rules on incitement to violence.

Last year in February, the regulator had slapped a fine of £50,000 on KTV for broadcasting hateful content and a discussion programme that asked British Sikhs to commit violence and also contained a terror reference.

An Ofcom statement said the music video aired by the channel featured a man wearing a hoodie with two AK-47 rifles and an inscription that read: “Peace will come via the bullet”. It included slogans glorifying Khalistan, and inscriptions promising a bloody fight for it. A drawing depicted the assassination of General Vaidya, while a caricature of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi carried the caption calling her an “evil woman”. Ofcom objected to the “video’s narrative of advocating violent action against the Indian state”.

KTV was also fined £30,000 for broadcasting a discussion in 2019, in which participants made implicit threats to a Sikh radio presenter based in New Zealand. Ofcom also found that the programme had the potential of “legitimising the aims and actions of a banned terrorist organisation.”

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