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New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government paid a whopping Rs 160.31 crore to TV news channels for advertisements between April 2020 and March 2021, according to a Newslaundry report.
The data, revealed in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application, said that while “national TV news channels” were paid Rs 88.68 crore, “regional TV news channels” received Rs 71.63 crore for advertisements during this period.
The high expenditure, especially during a period that coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic, is concerning, said Umashankar Dubey, who filed the RTI application. During 2019-20, the Narendra Modi government said in response to an RTI application that it had spent Rs 317 crore on advertisements in electronic media.
According to Newslaundry, a majority of the money was used to promote the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” campaign launched by the Narendra Modi government in May 2020.
The report says that the Network18 group was the biggest beneficiary of the government’s spending, receiving Rs 28.82 crore during this period. The group runs the CNN News18, News18 India and News18 UP Uttarakhand channels. The Zee Media group came received Rs 23.48 crore in ads and the ABP group Rs 18.19 crore. The India Today group received Rs 10.64 crore for advertisements by the UP government.
Umashankar Dube, a resident of Lucknow and a journalist with DD News, had filed the RTI application. He told Newslaundry that he was “taken aback” by the Uttar Pradesh government’s huge ad spending.
“This is people’s money, collected from their taxes… [It] should not be misused. In COVID era, if it was channeled directly into relief efforts, it would have been an achievement. But to spend it on advertisements on news channels – how is that justified?” he told the website
Newslaundry reported that the top five Hindi news channels which received ad revenues from the Uttar Pradesh government are News18 India, Aaj Tak, India TV, Zee News and Republic Bharat.
The report says that the “multi-crore ads” have had a telling impact on a news channel’s reportage. It said that News18 India anchor Amish Devgan conducted a “softball interview with Adityanath”, where he did not challenged Adityanath’s “suspect assertions” about governance in the state not did he pose any tough questions.
Meanwhile, channels like NDTV 24×7 and NDTV India, which are often critical of the UP government, do not find any mention in the ad expenditure data, Newslaundry said.