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May 2019

THE NAMO TV CONTROVERSY



In April, NaMo TV created a stir when it was launched on all major DTH platforms.

Opposition parties complained to the Election Commission.

The press howled, why the I&B ministry permitted an unlicensed TV channel to be carried on DTH platforms.

To add to the confusion and intrigue, press reports said that NaMo TV - the channel inspired by Narendra Modi, had been renamed 'Content TV' to probably make it more palatable and less obvious in its purpose of promoting Narendra Modi's activities.

The channel carries a picture of Narendra Modi as its logo & airs his election speeches & publicises his policy initiatives.

Lets take a closer look.



LOCAL CABLE CHANNELS

The Cable Television Networks (CTN) Rules, 1994 permit Cable TV networks to create and operate in-house channels, as long as they do not carry pirated content and the content does not violate the Programme Code specified in the CTN.

Since they are not downlinked via satellite, no license is required.

For more than 20 years, Cable networks have carried their own local channels that provide local news, entertainment etc.






NAMO TV - ORIGIN

In 2007, during state assembly election in Gujarat, the Modi camp had launched a channel called, Vande Gujarat.

In 2012, the Gujarat BJP unit collaborated with all major MSOs in the state to relay NaMo TV as an in-house local Cable TV channel. Content was reportedly delivered to the MSOs on hard disk.

Namo TV has been running as a Local Cable channel, on many Cable TV networks, for many years.


DTH'S 'SPECIAL SERVICES'

Just as Cable TV networks are permitted to create and transmit local channels, DTH platforms are - under similar restrictions of piracy and Programme Code - permitted to carry their own "Special Services."

Most DTH platforms carry 20 to 50 "Special Services" ranging from exam tutorials to Pay-Per-View movies.


NAMO TV ON DTH

In April 2019, NaMo TV appeared on all major DTH platforms - See Table 1.




OBJECTIONS

Political parties objected to NaMo TV's carriage on DTH, pointing out that it did not have a downlink license.

The Aam Admi Party questioned the Election Commission whether NaMo TV was in contempt of the Model Code of Conduct.

The Congress asked the EC to suspend transmission of NaMo TV, since as a channel dedicated to Modi's activities was in fact an election campaign & in violation of law.


CLARIFICATIONS

While a Tata Sky said NaMo TV is a 'Special Service with content provided by the BJP,' a Dish TV spokesperson described it as an 'Ad sales-related service.'

Tata Sky CEO Harit Nagpal clarified that NaMo TV "does not fall into any genre and special services do not need a licence."

The I&B ministry responded to an Election Commission notice, clarifying that NaMo TV is an advertisement platform launched by DTH service providers which does not require government nod.

The ministry also added that NaMo TV is not a regular channel and it does not figure in the official list of approved channels.


EC: CONTENT TO BE CERTIFIED

The Election Commission ruled that NaMo TV carried by DTH operators, should be subjected to content certification, like all other political advertisements during the model code period.

The poll panel wrote to the Delhi chief electoral officer to begin vetting and certifying NaMo TV content by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee. Further, the expenditure incurred by NaMo TV must be reflected in BJP's annual audit and expenditure reports.