Political ads on TV still await green signal

NEW DELHI: The speed-breakers have been removed, but the green signal has not yet come. That's why the political parties are not making a dash for the nearest TV channel to book airtime.



"The Election Commission (EC) is yet to issue any directive in this regard. We are waiting for that," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson M A Naqvi told indiantelevision today, while sources in the Congress Party echoed similar sentiments.

However, inquires made by indiantelevision.com did reveal that the big national level parties, Congress and the BJP, and some regional ones like the Telegu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh are ready to go on air as soon as EC waves the green flag.

On Tuesday, in a landmark --- some say it's debatable --- judgment the Andhra Pradesh high court struck down a rule under the Cable TV (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. 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 the Election Commission to ban telecast of political advertisements.

But the problem is that mandarins at Nirvachan Sadan, headquarters of EC here, are still unsure how to react to the court directive. Questioned on the issue today, one of the three election commissioners admitted that the EC might take some more days to firm up its view. Quizzed further, whether EC would abide by the court ruling or not, a noncommittal reply was given.

That the Indian government wanted an escape route on the issue is evident from the fact that the Andhra high court order would not be contested or appealed against by the central government or any of its allies.


Meanwhile, a Congress source said that the party expects EC to give a directive on political ads vis-?-vis the electronic medium over the next few days. "The party's campaign on the electronic medium is scheduled to break soon," a senior leader said.

But the Congress leader avoided commenting on a surrogate advertisement that is already the rounds of the channels. This particular ad, released in public interest by a non-governmental organisation, harps on the hollowness of government's claims on employment, etc. --- issues that are also part of the Congress' communication and media strategy as reported by indiantelevision.com earlier.

BJP's Naqvi also maintained that promotional material for the electronic medium is ready and awaiting a directive from the EC and the party's think-tank.

However, Naqvi today said he's not sure whether a film made yesterday at the Prime Minister's residence by Lintas, while the final one-dayer at Lahore was being played, would be used as part of the party's election campaign media strategy.

"There was a move to use images of the PM watching the cricket match in campaigns. But now we are not sure whether it would be done or not. Or, whether cricket would be linked at all or not?" he said. Though, a similar image was released for the print medium and was also carried by some newspapers.

Incidentally, Lintas shot a film featuring the PM enjoying yesterday's cricket match along with his foster family.

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