CPI(M) politburo member Nilotpal Basu wrote to the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday against the launch of Namo TV, alleging that it was a "brazen violation" of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
Alleging that a series of violations by the ruling BJP "severely constrain" the level-playing field for all the political parties and candidates contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha election, Basu demanded action from the poll body.
"To start with, we are dumbfounded to come across the information that NaMo TV, which advertises for 'Real time coverage of PM Modi's exciting election campaign and a lot more fascinating content', has been on air for over a week now and it does not even have a broadcast license.
"What is even more shocking is that the channel has not even applied for a license. It does not have a compulsory security clearance, making the enterprise illegal under the existing broadcast laws. The implications for national security (of which we get to hear day in and day out from the establishment) is spine-chilling," he said.
The Left leader further said nothing was known about the ownership of NaMo TV, the teleport or the system which was being used for uplinking or downlinking the channel.
"The channel also does not find mention in the list of permitted channels issued by the I&B Ministry as of 31st March. However, the channel has gone on air and is available on all important DTH platforms," he said.
Basu alleged that apart from being a serious security risk with flagrant violation of the existing law and rules for cable television networks, it was also violative of several sections of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
"We urge that the ECI take stringent measurers against such an obnoxious development and fix accountability on whosoever is responsible for such a situation; particularly more so, because the broadcast has started only after the announcement of the date of elections with the MCC coming into force," he said.
The CPI(M) had also earlier complained about the "biased" role of public broadcaster Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) in disproportionately publicising the views of the prime minister.
"The same trend continues with equal zeal and we dare say, being emboldened by the ECI clean chit on the public broadcast of the prime minister. Yesterday, the prime minister's speech in Kolkata was broadcast live by DD. Additionally, private channels using the same coverage were acknowledging this by prominently displaying on the screen that the feeds were from DD. Can the EC ensure a level-playing field by recurrence of such partisan behaviour of the public broadcaster?," Basu wrote in his letter to the poll watchdog.
He also raised the issue of public coverage of the enhanced rates of wages under MGNREGA on Doordarshan and AIR.
"The extraordinary gazette notification of March 26th was allowed by the ECI while its direction to the Ministry of Rural Development dated 20th March with very specific riders. The direction pointedly asked to ensure that 'absolutely no publicity in this regard in electronic, print, radio, internet or any other media, in any form whatsoever' was given. The ministry also subsequently issued an order on 28th March, 2019 to this effect.
"However, again the information about the enhanced rates was publicised in DD/AIR bulletins. We have also come across similar information in the form of WhatsApp messages. It seems that increasingly the ECI's directions are followed in their breach. We urge you to take strong and tangible action against those responsible for such violations," Basu said.
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