The Election Commission (EC) has called the Doordarshan (DD) airtime to parties ‘disproportionate’ and ‘not balanced’ after the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got away with 160 hours of ‘airtime coverage’ in a month.
According to a report which DD News shared with the EC, Congress, the principal opposition party, stood second with roughly 80 hours of coverage, then the CPM with eight hours.
Related Article:Doordarshan launches Science channel
The EC asked the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry to direct DD News to ‘desist’ from extending any preferential or disproportionate airtime coverage in favor of any party.
As per EC’s guidelines for the government-administered DD and AIR, both should provide fair and balanced coverage of campaigning, plus speeches. What it means is that no party should be given ‘substantially more coverage than the others’. And this balance can be achieved through a reasonable time, like a week.
However, a senior official justified the public broadcaster saying that the BJP has a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha and is in power in 16 states, and the Congress in comparison is very small. Moreover, he argued that both parties could not be on equal footing in terms of coverage but said that the airtime given is balanced. Not finding this explanation acceptable, the EC said DD News’s political coverage was ‘not in accordance with the principle of maintaining neutrality and level-playing field’.
Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati explained that coverage is a continuous process spanning the entire network of more than 30 TV channels/stations and several 100 radio stations.
Vempati said “It would be flawed and inaccurate to draw inferences from a snapshot at any given point in time. However, we have taken note of the observations and comments of the EC regarding proportion of coverage as conveyed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”