New Delhi: After launching on March 26 just before the start of the Lok Sabha polls, the controversial NaMo TV has disappeared from India’s airwaves.
BJP party sources said it went off air on May 17 when all campaigns for the Lok Sabha election came to an end.
The last phase of the election was, incidentally, the one and only time the party channel complied with the legal requirement that no election related political advertising be shown on television during the 48 hour silent period before the close of polls.
A BJP leader, requesting anonymity, said, “NaMo TV was meant as aBJP campaign tool for the Lok Sabha election. With the polls over, it is no longer needed, so effectively from May 17, when all campaigning had to be paused, it has also gone off air.”
NaMo TV, which was being aired free of cost by DTH operators such as Tata Sky, Videocon and Dish TV, had been criticised by the opposition as being a ‘propaganda machine’. Despite various complaints to the Election Commission, however, no action was taken against the channel, the BJP or Prime Minister Modi, who owns the NaMo App of which NaMo TV was said by the party to be a part.
TataSky, which had initially called NaMo TV a “Hindi news channel” in a promotional tweet, reversed itself and called the channel a “special service”.
Most recently, the chief electoral officer of Delhi even sent a notice to the BJP for “airing election-related content” on the NaMo TV even after the silence period began just before the sixth phase of the polling.
In April, after the Election Commission had directed that all recorded programmes displayed on NaMo TV be pre-certified, the Delhi poll body had directed the BJP to not air any content on the platform without its certification.
“It has been brought to the notice of the commission that NaMo TV/content TV is a platform service offered by DTH operators to the BJP on a paid basis any political publicity material or contents being displayed on electronic media without the requisite certification from competent authority should be removed immediately and any political content shall only be permitted strictly in accordance with the EC’s instructions in this regard,” the April 11 directive of the EC read .
NaMo TV’s use of the NSS-6 satellite also raised questions about compliance with Indian broadcast law. Information in the public domain indicates the prime minister’s propaganda channel used the satellite to uplink and downlink its signal despite not having a license to do so.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, however, once told ABP News that he himself doesn’t watch NaMo TV. But on the very day the channel was launched, the prime minster had tweeted:
The day we were most looking forward to is here!
At 5 PM, lakhs of Chowkidars from different parts of India will interact in the historic #MainBhiChowkidar programme.
This is an interaction you must not miss.
Watch it live on the NaMoApp or NaMo TV. pic.twitter.com/XXKkLUuE7X
— Chowkidar Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 31, 2019
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had slammed the EC yesterday for its bias regarding the channel:
From Electoral Bonds & EVMs to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, “Modi’s Army” & now the drama in Kedarnath; the Election Commission’s capitulation before Mr Modi & his gang is obvious to all Indians.
The EC used to be feared & respected. Not anymore.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 19, 2019
Under Section 126 of the Representation of People Act, violating the mandatory silent period during the election is a criminal offence.
(With inputs from PTI)