NaMo TV: Election Commission asks for ministry report after Congress complaint
The Election Commission has issued a notice seeking a report from the I&B Ministry on NaMo TV, launched just weeks ahead of the general elections, after opposition parties including the Congress asked the poll body to direct the ministry to suspend the channel as it was violative of the model code of conduct. Sources said the Commission has issued the notice to the Information & Broadcasting Secretary on Tuesday evening giving time till Friday evening, as per the ministry request, to submit a report on the channel and its launch.
The EC will take a call on whether it violates the model code after going through the documents the ministry files, sources added.
Hours after the EC issued notice to I&B Ministry, the Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of mocking and trampling upon democratic norms by “brazenly” running NaMo TV and asked the poll watchdog to put a stop at this “misuse” of media that seeks to disturb the level-playing field during elections.
The channel carries the picture of Modi as its logo. It was launched on March 31, nearly two weeks after the Model code of conduct came into effect and ahead of Lok Sabha polls beginning April 11. The channel, available on various DTH and cable TV platforms, broadcast election rallies, speeches of the Prime Minister and interviews of BJP leaders.
Maintaining that “the contents are being broadcast in complete violation of the rules and regulations of cable televisions”, the Congress, in its complaint said the Union ministry’s list of permitted private satellite channels in the country did not mention NaMo TV, so either the channel “Content TV” is being broadcast as a “government-sponsored channel” or lacks official clearance from the ministry. The AAP also complained to the EC, saying the BJP has launched the channel and though a party can have its own channel, it asked the EC if permission can be granted “even after the Model Code of Conduct is enforced”.
Though BJP has maintained that it does not own the channel or the platform, its official twitter handle had urged people to watch it for the Prime Minister election campaign. Union minister Piyush Goyal had also tweeted about the channel number while asking viewers to watch the Prime Minister events. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trampling upon democratic norms in India. By running brazenly and blatantly ‘NaMo TV’. Isn’t the Prime Minister mocking the Constitution as also every democratic norm,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked.
He said by running ‘NaMo TV’ as an affront to the rule of law, Modi and the BJP are mocking the powers of superintendence and control of election of the Election Commission under Article 324 of the Constitution. The Arvind Kejriwal-led party had recently asked the EC if the BJP had sought approval for the launch of the channel, which has Prime Minister Modi’s photograph on its logo and runs all his speeches.
“Can permission be granted to a party to have its own TV channel even after the model code is enforced? If no permission was given by the ECI, then what action has been taken?,” the AAP said in its letter to the poll panel.
According to government sources, the ministry is likely to take a line that it is an advertisement channel which does not require a prior permission and it is run on certain DTH channels on payment made by the BJP.
However, when contacted, there was no immediate reaction from the BJP. Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP also asked if the BJP had approached the Media Certification Committee, established to certify content and cost of a telecast.
The EC has also learnt to have written separately to Dordarshan for telecasting live the ‘Main bhi chowkidar’ programme of Modi on March 31 evening for one hour.
The Congress had written to EC against the BJP’s alleged “misuse” of Doordarshan in broadcasting certain speeches by Prime Minister Modi.
The ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ programme of the prime minister was being broadcast live on DD News and its YouTube channel, and the said programme was even being promoted on social media handles of DD News, the Congress memorandum said.