The BJP-sponsored NaMo TV will have to comply with the 48-hour ‘election silence’ ahead of every phase of voting, the Election Commission (EC) is learnt to have told the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Tuesday. The EC has also told the Delhi CEO that all expenditure incurred on programmes and advertisements on NaMo TV should be identified appropriately and attributed to candidates or political parties.
The two-day silence period for the second phase of voting on April 18 started Tuesday evening. According to a senior official in the Delhi CEO’s office, a direction to comply with Section 126 (i) (b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, was sent to the BJP within hours of receiving the EC’s communication.
Section 126 (i) (b) of the RP Act prohibits display of any “election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus”, in the 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency.
The EC’s order brings clarity on the applicability of election silence on NaMo TV, which aired political content and pre-recorded speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 48 hours preceding the first phase of voting on April 11.
As for live-coverage of events in areas where campaigning is in progress, prohibition under Section 126 can only relate to a “direct reference” to a constituency or candidate which is in the 48-hour period, an official said on condition of anonymity.
On April 11, the EC held that NaMo TV is sponsored by the BJP and all content on the TV channel should be “removed immediately” as it did not have prior certification. Following this, the party was asked to take down non-certified content and the Delhi CEO set up a dedicated team to monitor the channel’s content.
The EC’s directions came a day after the BJP admitted that the NaMo App, of which NaMo TV is a part, was run by its IT cell.
Available across major DTH platforms in the country, NaMo TV has been called a “platform service” of the DTH operators by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in its response to a notice from the EC. The I&B Ministry had told the 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 left it to the election watchdog to take a call on it.
Several Opposition parties, including the Congress and AAP, had complained to the EC, asking if NaMo TV had obtained permission from the I&B Ministry, and if parties can launch channels after the Model Code of Conduct kicks in.