New Delhi: The Election Commission order banning the release of any biography or any other poster or publicity material that serves the interests of a political entity also applies to Namo TV, the 24-hour channel promoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP that surreptitiously landed on DTH connections ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The Election Commission had earlier in the day stopped the release of ‘PM Narendra Modi’ till the end of the Lok Sabha election, hours after the Central Board of Film Certification green lit the film for release on Thursday, the first day of polling.
In its order, the poll panel said there was emergent need for intervention to stop political content that disturbs the level playing field for the elections.
While earlier the order was thought to only relate to the biopic on the PM, an Election Commission official told News18 that it also applies to the TV channel.
"...Any poster or publicity material concerning any such certified content, which either depicts a candidate (including prospective) for the furtherance (or purported to further) of electoral prospect, directly or indirectly, shall not be put to display in electronic media in the area where MCC (Model Code of Conduct) is in operation," the Election Commission's order states.
The channel has been at the centre of a controversy for the last 10 days as it never sought a license from the government to uplink and downlink content via satellite. The opposition parties were up in arms against it and asked how its operation is compatible with both India’s broadcasting and election-related laws.
TataSky, which had initially called NaMo TV a “Hindi news channel” in a promotional tweet, reversed itself later to toe the official line and called the channel a “special service”. This was seen as a way to circumvent the rules.
Available across major DTH platforms in the country, the channel almost exclusive aired speeches of the Prime Minister. The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry, however, called it a “platform service” of the DTH operators in its response to a notice from the EC.
The I&B Ministry told EC that since it is a platform service offered by DTH operators, which does not require uplinking/ downlinking permissions from the government, it is out of its purview, and had left it to the election watchdog to take a call.
The opposition, which had complained to the Election Commission against the channel, welcomed the development. "I'm glad the Election Commission has taken this stand. It was crude propaganda and a monumental shame for the country that the ruling party indulged in actions like this," Congress leader Sanjay Jha said.