Political ads on TV: After EC rap, I&B blames media

NEW DELHI: Fazed by the Election Commission's stand --- or non stand --- on political ads on TV and radio, India's information and broadcasting ministry today sought to give a spin to the whole issue saying that a section of the media is to be blamed for the controversy.


However, government officials also admitted that in the light of events and the twists and turns that has been seen, political ads would not surface on TV channels or on radio.

According to a government official today, the I&B ministry had only sought the EC's guidance on the issue, though the Act concerned bans on any sort of political advertising on TV and radio.

On Sunday, while announcing the dates for the general elections in four phases, the EC had lashed out at I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for "misleading the media" on the issue of political ads on the electronic medium. The EC clarified that the Commission had no role to play in the matter as an "Act of Parliament bans such advertising and the Commission cannot go against the Act."

Today, I&B officials said that the government would "continue to unreservedly abide by any directive, which the Commission may issue from time to time," adding that to say I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad "sought to mislead" the media on this issue is "factually incorrect and also unfair."

While putting a spin to the whole matter, the I&B ministry did not fail to point out that vide its communication dated 19.11.2003, the Election Commission had reiterated its earlier decision dated 20.8.1999 disallowing advertisements by political parties/ candidates on electronic media. Subsequently in the light of judgment of the Andhra Pradesh high court (which upheld the right of political parties to advertise or communicate through TV and radio), the EC issued another communication, dated 22.11.2003, withdrawing its earlier instruction banning political advertisements on electronic media.

"Because of this the ministry had sought a guidance from the EC," an official said, adding that the government had also expressed its apprehension in monitoring more than 100 cable and satellite channels, 30,000 cable operators and a large number of local

channels in local towns and various cities so as to ensure that these political advertisements remain within the Rule Book.

As the issue of political ads gets buried in rules and rule books, it is highly unlikely that the government or the EC would take any further radical stand on the matter.

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