NaMo TV has vanished from viewers’ set top boxes just as mysteriously as it had appeared. The timing of the channel’s disappearance has raised many eyebrows. NaMo TV had made its way on various service providers’ platform just before the start of 2019 Lok Sabha elections on March 26.
Funded by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, it raked up a controversy with the opposition crying foul. Opposition leaders had called NaMo TV a ‘propaganda machine’ as it just aired PM Modi’s interviews, rallies, and movies which showcased government schemes followed by interviews of other BJP leaders.
DTH operators such as Tata Sky, Videocon and Dish TV all aired NaMo TV as a free-to-air service, meaning subscribers did not have to pay to view the channel. The channel was available throughout the length and breadth of the country for the entire duration of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
When the issue was brought to the notice of the Election Commission, they sought clarification from the Information and Broadcast (I&B) ministry.
The I&B ministry’s response added fuel to fire. According to the ministry, NaMo TV was an advertisement based platform distributed by several Direct to Home operators, the expenses of which were borne by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The ministry had further clarified, by stating that NaMo TV wasn’t a registered channel that needs permission to air.
In April, the Election Commission had directed that all recorded programmes displayed on the NaMo TV be pre-certified. Post the EC’s direction, the Delhi Chief Electoral Officer had directed the BJP not to air any content on NaMo TV without its certification.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, too, had mentioned NaMo TV when he attacked the Election Commission for being biased after the polling for the 2019 general elections ended. In his tweet, Rahul Gandhi said, “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.”
The vanishing act of NaMo TV can be linked to the completion of the polls. Sources within the Election Commission say that the idea of NaMo TV was to garner eyeballs and to highlight the working of the government, which could possibly lead to more votes for the party. Now that the elections are over, recurring cost of running the platform will be futile.
Pulling the plug on the platform immediately after the Lok Sabha elections got over is raising serious questions about the way rules were bypassed to allow the airing of NaMo TV because of various loopholes. Both the I&B ministry and the Election Commission were not able to come up with satisfactory answers about the functioning of the channel and continued to pass the buck. Neither authority gave a clear picture on NaMo TV, resulting in an advantage for the Bhartiya Janata Party.