News Broadcasting Standard Authority (NBSA) had ordered Hindi news channel, Aaj Tak to apologize on air to IRCTC, following a complaint filed by the Indian Railways company, following a “sting operation” that claimed that there are problems related to its website, but had no such reference in the actual story.
The complaint said that the whole programme, on 24th & 25th March 2013, revolved around touting and the probable association between touts and the clerks at the ticketing counter. However, the channel had constantly flashed the tagline – “IRCTC ki website par gadbad jhala” (translated: problems with IRCTC’s website or irregularities with IRCTC’s website) although the programme did not actually include any reference to the website or its malfunctioning, thereby maligning IRCTC’s reputation with the public. It further said that neither the public nor officials interviewed for the story had mentioned any problems with respect to the website. IRCTC also alleged that the news channel had conducted a sting operation and broadcast an one-sided story on IRCTC’s ticketing service, without actually verifying the facts or attempting t0 contact IRCTC to include it’s side of the story.
In response to the complaint, Aaj Tak had tried to justify its stand stating that the programme was done in public interest. The channel had also said that the comments of the Reservation Superintendent, Assistant Commercial Manager, Additional Commissioner of Police, Delhi, a former member of the Railway Board and a cyber crime expert had also been obtained for the story. However, IRCTC denied the channel’s claim of attempting to contact IRCTC for a technical report to show that it was not involved in the touting.
NBSA ordered Aaj Tak to provide the following on-air apology to IRCTC, apart from remove all links of the programme from Aaj Tak’s website and other wesbites. The channel was supposed to be for five consecutive days from January 13-17, 2014 at 6PM on a full screen with large font size with voice slow over.
IRCTC is the Indian Railways company that manages online ticketing for the government, and has faced significant issues with booking of tickets, particularly early in the morning, when tatkal (last-minute/emergency) tickets are booked. In 2012, a sting operation from TV channel IBN7 has alleged that a daily 4-5 minute down-time 8am for the website used to allow touts exclusivity over emergency tickets. Another report from the India Today group in 2012 had said that a gang was “hacking” into IRCTC servers and was generating 10-15 PNR numbers before 8am every morning. This particular sting operation, from Aaj Tak, apparently wasn’t focusing on the issues related to the website, but still claiming that in the ticker.