NaMo TV, the 24-hour channel promoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls that begin tomorrow, cannot keep airing such content while the code of conduct is in place, Election Commission sources have told NDTV, referring to the panel's order stopping the release of a biopic glorifying the Prime Minister. The channel had mysteriously showed up on satellite TV networks late last month, drawing protests from the opposition.
Stopping the release of the Vivek Oberoi-starrer "PM Narendra Modi" till the national elections are over, the Election Commission said that any film "which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections should not be displayed in the electronic media", effectively banning the screening of the film, just a day before its release, coinciding with the start of elections.
"That 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 had said.
Sources in the poll body told NDTV that the directive also applies to content on channels like the NaMo TV.
The opposition, which had complained to the Election Commission about 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," Sanjay Jha of the Congress said.
The BJP, however, maintained that the channel was not in violation of the election code. "I don't think it is a setback for the government. I don't think the Election Commission found any illegality in the law. It was just showing the achievements of the government and the Prime Minister. It was a positive information initiative. We will be looking at alternatives," Vivek Reddy of the BJP said.
Tagged officially as a marketing channel but also called a "news service" by some providers, NaMo TV is being beamed to all subscribers of most DTH (Direct-To-Home) platforms since March 28. The government said the channel, which borrows the PM's initials and his image for its logo, did not need a license.
But Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) complained to the Election Commission against the channel saying it violated the model code of conduct that came into effect on March 10 after the Election Commission announced seven-phase elections from April 11 to May 19. Counting of votes will take place on May 23.