Cable TV

Can a MSO block a channel airing unfavourable poll survey?

MUMBAI: It's a classic case of how politicking could intrude the media space. It's not just about garnering eyeballs, buying advertising slots, publishing advertorials or simply influencing the electorate potentially through favourable exit or etc poll outcomes.

Here, it's a straight case of gagging the media which may purportedly harm one faction's interest, and the Tamil Nadu state machinery seems to be involved.

Tamil television news channel Puthiya Thalaimurai on 7 April protested against its alleged blackout in 15 districts of the state. The channel wrote to the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation (TACTV) managing director J. Kumaragurubaran that its channel was taken off air since the previous night after it aired the results of a poll survey in the Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency, where a byelection was scheduled to be held on 12 April.

The channel’s CEO R.B.U. Shyam Kumar said that the survey results had reflected the mood of the voters. Kumaragurubaran urged Arasu to consider its plea to protect the rights of the media and take immediate action.

The state-run TACTV blacked out Puthiya Thalaimurai channel on Thursday night as its survey of the RK Nagar constituency saw voters recognising O Panneerselvam as the natural political heir of Jayalalithaa over Sasikala (and not incumbent Edappadi Palaniswami) as the future chief minister. AIADMK chief and late CM's incarcerated companion VK Sasikala's nephew TTV Dinakaran was reportedly involved in the blackout.

In the backdrop of the R.K. Nagar bypolls, Tamil Nadu woke up to income-tax raids on Friday morning in an apparent crackdown on cash distribution among voters. In the constituency, documents suggesting money distribution to the tune of Rs 120 crore were seized from the MLA hostel.

IT officials surveyed the house and other locations of the state health minister Dr. C. Vijaya Bhaskar, an important member of the Sasikala faction and a known fundraiser. Another IT team checked the residence bungalow of AISMK head and actor-politician R. Sarath Kumar, who had declared his support to TTV Dinakaran, allegedly at a price. The raids also covered MGR Medical University vice chancellor Dr. Geethalakshmi, who may be the conduit of black money from private medical colleges in the state.

DMK interim president, M K Stalin, meanwhile demanded of the chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy to sack Vijayabaskar from ministerial position.

Seeking to influence the voter may not be new. But, trying to block independent television channels airing pro or anti-factional surveys is unheard of. Puthiya Thalaimurai strangely went off the air in the districts where mostly Arasu Cable signals are distributed.

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