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NaMo TV a riddle wrapped in mystery

NaMo TV a riddle wrapped in mystery
NaMo TV a riddle wrapped in mystery

ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS NaMo TV made its debut on March 31 on DTH platforms, and created a stir among political parties regarding the content it aired.

For most parties, NaMo TV is a propaganda tool for Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the Lok Sabha election and is in violation of the model code of conduct. They have brought this to the notice of the Election Commission, which has sought an explanation from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, responsible for granting licences to content providers. The Ministry has been given time till Friday to respond. The Commission, it is learnt, is likely to take a decision on April 9 when it meets.

Meanwhile, several questions are being raised on the identity of NaMo TV. Is it a news channel or an add-on service offered by a direct-to-home (DTH) operator or an entertainment channel? For instance, on Tata Sky, NaMo is available as a Hindi entertainment channel on number 145 as well as a Hindi news channel on number 512. Or is it an advertisement channel? Most important, who is the licence holder? Back in 2012, when NaMo TV commenced its operations in Gujarat ahead of the Assembly election, the Congress State unit took exception to the contents aired and the matter came before the then Information and Broadcasting Minister, Manish Tewari.

“I realised that there was no legal architecture covering ground operations of local cable operators or multi-system operators and I could do little to stop the operations,” Mr. Tewari said.

The Hindu could not verify reports on the ownership of the channel. Media reports alluded that the owners were two Gujaratis. There are reports that the channel is owned by one Parag Shah, said to be close to the BJP leadership.

Mr. Tewari had suggested that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) address the issue and worked on recommendations to bring this aspect under a legal umbrella. Seven years have passed by and the matter remains unresolved. “I strongly feel NaMo TV’s presence on DTH platforms raise questions about the DTH operator’s accountability to rules framed for broadcast operations. When you make the channel available on your platform, you are answerable to the content you put out and there is no ambiguity in the guidelines here,” Mr. Tewari said, adding that licences of the DTH operators should be revoked.

If NaMo TV is a news channel, it requires a license to operate and the guidelines governing the operations are broadly called Uplinking and Downlinking guidelines. This is for news channels which require the services of a satellite to beam their programmes to viewers and all DTH service providers are bound by law. If it is an add-on service offered by a DTH operator, it has to be special to a channel. NaMo, however, is available on a number of DTH platforms.

As the identity of the channel and the owner remains mysterious, the channel’s presence raises questions not only about a ruling party’s exertions of power in the media space but also the possibility of violating the model code of conduct governing political parties during elections, media experts have pointed out.

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