EDITORIAL | Are you watching NaMo TV, EC?

The launch of a television channel dedicated to round-the-clock coverage of BJP propaganda and real-time broadcasting and reporting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign has raised questions about its fairness, propriety and even legality. The channel, which was launched on Sunday as NaMo TV, was later renamed as Content TV, and is broadcasting the propaganda of only one party and its leader. The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have complained to the Election Commission about the channel and demanded suspension of its broadcast. They have said that influential people should not be allowed to abuse their positions by launching propaganda channels and pretend to have no connection with them. This amounts to denial of a level playing field to opposition parties. The channel carried live coverage of the Prime Minister’s ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ event on Sunday and has been broadcasting interviews with BJP leaders and other propaganda programmes.  

The channel is a television version of the NaMo app and has been launched on all DTH platforms. It is not mentioned among the TV channels permitted by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry. The sources of investment in the channel and the size of the funds it has are not known. Its ownership is not known but it is broadcast as a government-sponsored channel and receives government advertisements. It is also not known whether the spending on the programmes will be part of the BJP’s or Narendra Modi’s election expenditure. The Election Commission has to examine all these aspects and take action, as there is obviously a violation of the model code of conduct and broadcasting rules. But, given the commission’s record of acting against the BJP and the prime minister’s transgressions in the past, should we expect any action now?

The EC’s decision most recently that the prime minister did not violate the code of conduct when he came on national TV to announce the success of the anti-satellite missile test is an example of its timidity and reluctance to take action on complaints against Modi and his government. The announcement was clearly an attempt to claim credit for a weapons test, a routine affair for defence scientists made significant only by its success on the first attempt. But the commission took a very literal view of the code and ruled that there was no violation because Doordarshan and AIR took the feed from another agency. This was a distinction without a difference. It is clear that the prime minister was in violation of the spirit of the code. Unfortunately, the Election Commission no longer appears to be the neutral umpire it is supposed to be of the current electoral match.  

 

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EDITORIAL | Are you watching NaMo TV, EC?

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