Poll ads: EC lobs ball back to I&B min

NEW DELHI: Even as the Election Commission today lobbed the ball back into the government's court today saying that the law is adequate in dealing with the issue of political advertisement on the electronic medium, the information and broadcasting ministry is in a bind as a broad policy decision cannot be taken based on isolated complaints of surrogate

advertising.

 

The EC has also directed that the government should revert with an action plan by Monday, 29 March on surrogate political ads that have started surfacing on various TV channels.

The EC's stand on the issue was conveyed journalists today by one of the three election commissioners in the wake of a recent Andhra Pradesh high court ruling quashing EC and the government stand on banning political ads on the electronic medium.

Assistant Commissioner A N Jha told newspersons, "The law under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 was adequate to deal with the issue."

India's elections regulator took up the issue of surrogate political advertisement after the Congress lodged a formal complaint with it, saying that some surrogate political ads on channels made a direct attack on the foreign origin of the party chief, Sonia Gandhi.

One particular ad concerned, issued by a little-known NGO, depicts fleeting images from the freedom movement with the wordings being that once again some people are getting ready to hand over the governance of the country to

foreigners, meaning Italian-born Sonia who is married into the Nehru-Gandhi family and is trying to revive the flagging fortunes of Congress.

A senior Delhi-based advertising personality, on condition of anonymity, lashed out at some of the surrogate ads put out by Bharatiya Janata Party front organisations. "There are ways to slug it out, but the ad on the foreign origin of Sonia Gandhi does not leave anything to the imagination and is bad in taste."

Taking advantage of the Congress complaint, the EC has also directed the ministry to look into other complaints, some of them that involve those from South India and regional political parties and channels.

Contacted by indiantelevision.com, a senior official of the I&B ministry admitted that some ads, even though surrogate, did not leave anything to the imagination as to who they were targeting and did border on personal attack.

"But to think on a broader plain, the government cannot do much on isolated cases," the official said, pointing out that may be it is made mandatory to have all political ads for TV channels vetted by the censor board or some such organisation (like Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to make them palatable under the programming and advertising code of the Cable TV Act.

Though I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad could not be reached for comments as he was said to be on a tour outside Delhi, it would be worthwhile to remember what he had said in the past, often: The ban on political ads (on electronic medium) should continue as it would be very difficult to monitor each and every channel and ad for the sake of decency.

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