New Delhi: A report that Doordarshan News shared with the Election Commission (EC) on April 5 has reportedly shown that the Bharatiya Janata Party got nearly 160 hours of “airtime coverage” on the channel while the Congress party got roughly half of that.
According to the Indian Express, this is the report that led to the EC reprimanding DD News and asking the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry to direct the channel to “desist from extending any preferential or disproportionate airtime coverage in favour of any party”.
A source quoted by the Indian Express claimed that since the BJP held a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha and in several state assemblies, the disproportionate amount of airtime was justified. “But if a comparison is made between the BJP and all opposition parties combined, the airtime given is balanced,” the source added.
However, rejecting these claims, the EC on Tuesday, asked Doordarshan to “desist” from extending any preferential or disproportionate airtime coverage in favour of any party. The EC had sought specific details from DD News after a complaint was lodged alleging that the channel was being used as a tool to promote and advertise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Main Bhi Chowkidar” event.
Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati told the Indian Express that the reason why Congress got half of BJP’s airtime was because “coverage is a continuous process spanning the entire network” and that it “would be flawed and inaccurate to draw inferences from a snapshot at any given point in time”. He also justified that skewed amount of airtime coverage given to political parties by saying that “the Public Broadcaster has to compete with the private broadcasters for viewership and listenership and hence newsworthiness is also an important consideration in editorial decisions”.
However, he added that they had taken note of the EC’s comments regarding the proportion of coverage. He also said that a committee had been set up for “editorial supervision and monitoring” and that “periodically data will be collected and a report will be shared with the Election Commission”.
The Congress had earlier approached the EC to issue directions to the I&B ministry against “using government-owned news channels as a tool to promote and advertise their election campaign”.
Doordarshan has since sought an interview with Congress President Rahul Gandhi in order to give space to all political views.
Previously, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury had requested the EC to ask DD and AIR to air the speeches and statements of political leaders as prominently as they aired Modi’s address to the nation on the anti-satellite test.
Is this what the Election Commission is doing about Article 324, on its mandate to conduct free & fair polls? Why is the state broadcaster running live the campaign speech of the BJP candidate from Varanasi? Will it now live telecast speeches of all leaders of national parties? https://t.co/VYzPHxxJ4J
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) April 3, 2019