The UPA government is quietly beefing up its media campaigns for effective outreach, following inter-ministerial consultations held by information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari.
Tewari, whose ministry carries out the government’s publicity mandate, has called for government ads with a “clear message”. Official media campaigns should not be monotonous or lacklustre, he said in a recent directive.
A 2009 assessment by the Centre for Media Studies had found that of the eight flagship programmes of the UPA government, only three were known across the country by a majority of the 12,796 respondents in 30 states.
With Lok Sabha polls slated for 2014, the government wants to ensure effective communication strategies. The information ministry has requested all ministries, or clients, to devote space to “appropriate text advertisements” highlighting “success stories”.
Bharat Nirman, a branding for plans on creating basic rural infrastructure, will remain the main focus. Therefore, Tewari’s brief for a recent ad was the depiction of a girl child’s life cycle shown in tandem with state benefits designed for each stage.
The first Bharat Nirman campaign was launched in 2007 by the previous UPA administration to showcase its achievements in rural India.
Curbing extremism is another aspect. As the main theme for ads put out on constitutional architect BR Ambedkar’s birthday on April 14, Tewari had called for Ambedkar’s thoughts on the dangers of straying away from the Constitution. “There are forces who have adopted extra-constitutional means, like Left-wing extremism. Government communication is also about telling them that there is space within the Constitution for them,” Tewari said.
The government on an average spends R571 crore for publicity across media. In 2004, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s R150 crore-plus campaign called India Shining had become a catchphrase for an emerging economy, but a disconnect ensured the alliance lost power that year.