NaMo TV, a 24-hour channel raised several questions about its identity, ownership and content.
NaMo TV case
- NaMo TV is a 24-hour channel exclusively featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches and pro-BJP content and was launched on various DTH and cable TV platforms on March 31.
- The channel is listed among Hindi News channels on some DTH platforms. However, no such channel is mentioned in the list of channels permitted by the I&B Ministry.
- Opposition parties asked the Election Commission to take action as the channel was launched after the model code of conduct came into effect ahead of the Lok Sabha election.
- Subsequently, the Election Commission of India has issued notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in order to determine the legal status of NaMo TV.
- The I&B Ministry has apparently told the Election Commission that NaMo TV is a ‘platform service’. It is A kind of “advertising platform” and claimed that it does not need government’s approval
1. cable TV services
2. DTH services
3. Internet Protocol Television services,
4. terrestrial TV services in smaller geographic regions.
There are four types of channels on TV
1. Private satellite channels: It broadcast through satellites and need I&B permissions;
2. Doordarshan channels: It is run by public broadcaster Prasar Bharati;
3. Platform services channels: It is owned and operated by the DPOs and distributed exclusively to their own subscribers;
4. Ground-based channels: It come with a strong local focus and are referred to as “local channels”, usually an integral part of most cable TV networks.
Broadcasting norms and Regulations
- As per the Constitution, legislative & executive power over ‘Posts and telegraphs; telephones, wireless, broadcasting, and other like forms of communication’ vests with the Union
- All satellite-based channels require the ministry’s permission to be downlinked in the country irrespective of the content, or the platform it is available on.
- But the regulation allows the DTH platforms to offer its own value-added services, for which there is no licence required.
Issue with NaMo TV
- Violation of poll code: NaMo TV was launched after the election code of conduct was in force. For most parties, NaMo TV is a propaganda tool for ahead of the Lok Sabha election and it gives an unfair advantage to a party.
- Identity and ownership: There are no clarity over category of NaMo TV whether it is news channel or an add-on service offered by a direct-to-home (DTH) operator or an entertainment channel
The content on TV is broadly classified as follows
1. Non-news and Current affairs(entertainment): The content or “programs” consists of a program code and the advertising code which all content transmitted or retransmitted on television must adhere to.
Program code prohibits airing any content that may not be suitable for public viewing which may be otherwise prohibited under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The Advertising code, on the other hand, regulates the content that can be advertised and prohibits advertising of those content that is in violation of public morality and decency and any other content that can create social disharmony etc.
2. News and Current affairs: For the moment, there is no statutory regulatory mechanism and the News and the Current Affairs TV channels in India are regulated by a self-regulatory body known as the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) which has formulated a standards code known as the NBA Code.
3. Advertisements: There is no statutory provision or body to regulate the ad content in India. Hence, a self-governing body called the Advertising standards council of India (ASCI) has been formed to regulate the ad content in India.
4. Films on Television: Based on the content of the films, the CBFC awards a certificate to the films which range from unrestricted public viewing(“U”) to restricted to adult viewing (“A”). Any content awarded an “A” certificate cannot be aired on TV.
- As Platform service: Many DTH Operator has told that NaMo TV is a ‘platform service’. While platform services have traditionally been exclusive offerings by each DTH operator, NaMo TV is available across DTH operators in the country.
“Platform services (PS) are programs transmitted by Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) exclusively to their own subscribers and does not include Doordarshan channels and registered TV channels. PS shall not include foreign TV channels that are not registered in India.”
- Highlight loopholes in regulatory framework: There is no legal architecture covering ground operations of local cable operators or multi-system operators. NaMo TV broadcast feed available to the world via satellite without going through the process of acquiring a broadcast license highlight the loophole.
- DTH operator’s accountability: NaMo TV is running across many networks. It is alleged that DTH operators are taking benefits of loopholes in regulatory framework, as there is no law for platform service yet.
Election Commission of India has issued notice to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in order to determine the legal status of NaMo TV and the ball is in Ministry of information and Broadcasting court. But NaMo TV highlight the loopholes in regulatory framework through which broadcast feed available to the world via satellite without going through the process of acquiring a broadcast license. The government must bring a legal architecture covering platform services and local cable operator’s operation.