Andhra Pradesh high court allows political ads on TV

MUMBAI: Political parties need not resort to surrogate advertising anymore.


The Andhra Pradesh high court this morning struck down a rule under the Cable Network Regulation Act that bars political advertisements on electronic media, maintaining it discriminated between the print and electronic media. The HC also said it was violative of the right to freedom of trade and business.

An ETV spokesperson welcomed the judgement and said the network's marketing department would now be able to work on getting political parties' ads back on air. The order was passed by Chief Justice Devender Gupta and Justice Rohini based on a petition filed by Gemini Television Network, ETV and Maa TV which challenged rule 7 (3) of the Act invoked by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and Election Commission to ban telecast of political advertisements, say reports.

Channel executives that spoke to put the additional ad spend that was expected to be released by the court order onto television as anywhere between Rs 50 million and Rs 80 million at the upper limit.

Whether that rather conservative spend estimate ramps up will depend largely on the instructions the two key political parties in the election fray - the BJP and Congress - send out to their respective media agencies. The BJP's media duties are being managed by the Delhi-based Crayon's headed by Kunal Lalani, while Leo Burnett affiliate Orchard is handling the Congress campaign.

The Andhra High Court, meanwhile, which had last week adjourned the hearing of the case till today, observed that the order amounted to discrimination between the two media and was also violative of the right to freedom of trade and business, reports said.

According to a PTI report, the government can only impose "reasonable restrictions" under Article 19 (2) of the constitution and can stop telecast of programmes only if they threaten national security or flare up communal violence. The court observed that the order of the I&B and EC did come under the purview of Article 19 (2). It also agreed with the petitioner's argument that the order amounted to discriminating between the print and electronic media.

ETV, MAA TV, Gemini Television filed four writ petitions and they complained that this violates the fundamental rights to do business. The bench made it clear that the case will be heard on 23rd and directed the Central Government to file counter affidavit.

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