NaMo TV is an “advertisement based platform” distributed by several Direct to Home operators and availed of by the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry told Boom in an exclusive Right To Information reply.
It is not a registered channel that needs permission to air, the ministry added.
The reply comes more than a month after NaMo TV quietly started playing on television sets across India.
The ambiguous nature of the channel, which has aired content ranging from advertisements for government schemes, the prime minister’s speeches, interviews of the finance minister to nationalistic Bollywood movies, sparked a debate on social media over the timing of its launch, its ownership and legality just ahead of the general elections.
In the same RTI reply, the ministry also said, “The DTH [Direct to Home] operators do not require to take any permission from an authority/Ministry of I&B for showing content on the Platform Services.”
The channel’s name – NaMo – is a portmanteau of Narendra Modi, and it has the prime minister’s face as its logo. It started airing on March 26, just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
DTH operators such as Tata Sky, Videocon and Dish TV all aired NaMo TV as a free-to-air service, meaning subscribers do not have to pay to view the channel. Viewers were also not given an option to unsubscribe from the channel.
Boom had filed the RTI query at the ministry on April 8, asking eight questions about the channel’s ownership, nature and permissions sought by the channel to operate.
The questions asked are as follows:
The RTI reply dated May 6, is signed by P Nagarajan, under secretary to the Government of India and the Chief Public Information Officer.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, in response to questions one to seven, said: “The NaMo TV is not a registered channel. It is an advertisement platform service which is being distributed by various DTH operators exclusively to its own subscribers” and the “BJP has availed the said Platform Services of DTH operators on commercial basis.”
Referring to question on permissions needed to operate such a channel, the ministry said, “The DTH operators do not require to take any permission from an authority/Ministry of I&B for showing content on the Platform Services or offering such services to its subscribers.”
The ministry also said that the Election Commission of India was better placed to respond to question number eight, and that the RTI query had been forwarded to the poll body for that purpose. Question eight asked: “Please state if the Ministry aware of instances where political parties have rented/owned TV channels to broadcast content curated by them. If yes, details thereof.”
Boom had on April 4 reported that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s website had no details about NaMo TV such as who owned it and whether any permissions were sought before airing it. The ministry had earlier not responded to repeated calls and emails sent by BOOM asking about details of NaMo TV.
When Boom had earlier contacted spokespersons of two DTH operators, their replies were contradictory.
The DishTV spokesperson had said, “The channel is as ad sales service which means that they are not registered as entertainment or news on our service.”
A Tata Sky spokesperson, however, responded by saying, “Tata Sky has its own channel for ad sales. We cannot have any ad sales channel apart from this according to our company policies and guidelines.”
On April 4, Harit Nagpal, Chief Executive Officer, Tata Sky, told NDTV, “NaMo TV is not a Hindi news service. If someone in the frontline at Tata Sky has tweeted or said that it is a news service, it is a mistake. “NaMo TV does not fall into any genre” and the feed is “coming from the BJP via Internet. Special services do not need a licence.”
Nagpal’s reply was in response to a tweet by Tata Sky’s official handle that called NaMo TV a Hindi news service.
BJP had also announced the launch of NaMo TV from its official handle.
On May 2, the BJP said that it had written to the Election Commission seeking permission to air two movies starring Akshay Kumar – Padman and Toilet – Ek Prem Katha on NaMo TV.
Meanwhile, NaMo TV continues to air the prime minister’s speeches, interviews and advertisements about the various schemes launched by his party.
This article first appeared on Boomlive.in