A new channel dedicated to showing the rallies and speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and whose progeny is still unknown, has created a storm as the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party complained to the Election Commission of India about it on Monday. The channel called NaMo TV, which was briefly rechristened as Content TV last week, came up surreptitiously just weeks ahead of the general elections and does not have the government’s permission to broadcast in the country. However, NaMo TV is already available on all major national DTH operators including Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel, Siti Network among others.
In its memorandum to the EC, Congress wrote that Content TV “is dedicated solely to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and BJP for promoting and advertising the achievements of the government, personal achievements of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, political rallies of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and broadcasting interviews of prominent BJP leaders”.
On March 31, it said Modi used his social media accounts to inform people about his event, which he mentioned could be viewed live on NaMo TV. After viewing the said programme, Congress wrote, “It has become amply evident that the said channel is being used as a political campaign tool solely for promoting the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and BJP.”
Since the channel is not mentioned in the Union Ministry for Information and Broadcasting’s list of permitted private satellite channels in India, Congress told the EC that either “the channel “Content TV” is being broadcast as a government-sponsored channel” or it has “not got any official clearance” from the I&B Ministry and “the contents are being broadcast in complete violation of the rules and regulations of cable televisions”. It asked the EC to direct the I&B Ministry to suspend the channel.
In a second memorandum to the EC, Congress also complained about Doordarshan news showing the live broadcast of Modi’s “Main Bhi Chowkidaar” event on Sunday, which was “broadcast live through Prime Minister’s ‘Namo App’ and his personal television channel, ‘Namo TV’”, it said.
The “sole reason for the broadcast was to promote the personal achievements” of Modi and BJP to “justify their election tagline”, Congress said. It charged that it was shown live on DD News and its YouTube channel and “was even being promoted on the social media handles of DD News (@DDNewsLive)”. The programme, it complained, “had nothing to do with any issue” of national importance “which required live broadcast for its entire duration on DD News”.
AAP too wrote to the EC on Monday against the channel. It said that the BJP has “launched a 24-hours channel NaMo TV”. 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”. Is asked the EC who will monitor the channel’s content and if BJP had sought the EC’s permissions, and if not, what action would the EC take against it.
Though BJP has not officially claimed that the channel is owned by the party, Union minister Piyush Goyal had tweeted about the channel on Sunday with information about the channel number for it across different DTH networks. Tweeting about Modi’s “Main bhi Chowkidar” event, Goyal wrote, “Watch it live on NaMo TV, along with lot more exciting content.”
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Earlier on Sunday, BJP’s official handle had also tweeted about the channel, saying, “Capture the colours of elections… Watch the dance of democracy… Say NaMo again with NaMo TV. Tune in to get real-time coverage of PM Modi’s election campaign and a lot more fascinating content.”
Both, Goyal’s and BJP’s tweets also had a picture attached with the logo of the channel and details of the channel number across DTH platforms. The channel’s logo is the same photograph of Modi which is also used as the logo of Modi’s official personal mobile app owned by BJP. The NaMo app has an option called NaMo TV, on which the Prime Minister’s past and live speeches can be listened to.
As per top sources in the I&B Ministry, no new file to give uplinking or downlinking of such a channel has been approved recently.
There are 902 channels, run by 350 companies, that have broadcasting permissions in India as of April 1, as per I&B ministry’s data. However, neither Content TV nor NaMo TV or any channel named after Modi finds mention in this list of permitted channels.
Talking to The Indian Express Senior Congress leader and former I&B Minister Manish Tewari said he had dealt with the issue of NaMo TV in 2012 before the Gujarat elections. He explained that there is a “lacunae in the law”. There isn’t any “statutory framework for ground based channels” (terrestrial channels), Tewari said, “therefore the only permission which is required is for uplinking and downlinking”.
If you run a channel on your cable network, he said, “while that is per se illegal, but since there is an absence of a regulatory framework, people have exploited this loophole”. He said that he had made a recommendation to the TRAI on how to deal with the issue of ground-based channels which run on a cable network as “there are number of channels which were running in other parts of the country also”.
But if the channel is being broadcast on national platforms like the DTH networks it means the channel is being uplinked from or downlinked to the country. DTH he said is “not a ground-based platform” and is “a satellite platform, direct to home platform”. Hence, he said, “This is absolutely illegal and the I&B Ministry is obligated to shut it down because no channel can uplink or downlink without a license from the I&B Ministry”.
Someone, he added is uplinking or downlinking “without the requisite permissions which involves security clearances and various other formalities including intelligence vetting of the directors”. He said the Election Commission to take “suo moto cognisance” of the channel, which is “blatantly illegal”.
The Indian Express reached out to BJP’s national spokesperson Anil Baluni and head of the IT cell Amit Malviya, asking about the ownership of the channel and if it has requisite permissions. But neither of them responded.
The Indian Express also sent a text message and an email to Amit Khare, the I&B Secretary asking about the channel, if the ministry had received any application from it for uplinking and downlinking permissions and if the ministry will take any action on it, but it did not elicit any response.
DTH platform including Tata Sky, Dish TV, Siti Network and Airtel also did not respond to emails sent to them asking them about the channel being broadcast on their platforms.