Come May 20….India is through with a long seven-phase Lok Sabha polling…….and the mysterious propaganda NaMo channel has vanished from our TV set up boxes!
The existence of the said channel was indeed controversial and now the disappearance right after the polling is over, makes the agenda and funding of the channel even more suspicious.
NaMo TV had made its way on various service providers’ platform just before the start of 2019 Lok Sabha elections on March 26. The opposition had raked up a controversy calling NaMo TV a ‘propaganda machine’ as it just aired PM Modi’s interviews, rallies, and movies which showcased government schemes followed by interviews of other BJP leaders.
DTH operators such as Tata Sky, Videocon and Dish TV all aired NaMo TV as a free-to-air service, which means subscribers did not have to pay to view the channel and also the same could not have been deleted as it was complimentary (read:forced). The channel was available throughout the length and breadth of the country for the entire duration of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
When the issue was brought to the notice of the Election Commission, instead of banning the channel, they sought clarification from the Information and Broadcast (I&B) ministry.
And to everyone’s shock, according to the ministry, NaMo TV was an advertisement based platform distributed by several Direct to Home operators, the expenses of which were borne by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The ministry had further clarified, by stating that NaMo TV was not even a registered channel and thus it did not need permission to air.
On April 10, exactly a month after the model code of conduct came into force, mainstream media flashed reports that Election Commission had banned NaMo TV, the 24-hour channel promoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. Despite the same, people were still being able to view the notorious channel on their on TV sets. Later, Election Commission clarified that it had directed that all recorded programmes displayed on the NaMo TV be pre-certified. Post the EC’s direction, the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer had directed the BJP not to air any content on NaMo TV without its certification.
Plugging the plug on the platform immediately after the Lok Sabha elections got over is going to leave citizens of India with some serious questions about the way rules were bypassed to allow the airing of NaMo TV because of various loopholes.
Both the I&B Ministry and the Election commission have no satisfactory answers whatsoever about the functioning of the channel and only resorted in passing the buck.