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DD refuses free airtime to political parties

08-March-2004
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DD refuses free airtime to political parties

After the Election Commission’s directive against electoral advertising on television, it is state broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s turn to deny the medium to political parties.

Parasar Bharati has written to the Union information and broadcating ministry that it will no longer give free airtime on its 20-odd Doordarshan channels to political parties for campaigning for the coming general elections. Instead, parties should pay for buying time on the channels, said the proposal.

In the past, all political parties have been given free airtime on Dordarshan channels. Prasar Bharti wants the practice to end. I&B ministry officials confirmed receiving such a proposal from the Prasar Bharti.

Senior Prasar Bharti officials said that the role of the public service broadcaster has changed over time and if parties need time, they will have to pay for it.

Besides, if the free airtime concept has to continue, it should be applicable to all broadcasters operating in the country.

“If Prasar Bharati is not able to charge the political parties for campaigning on its channels, it is against its commercial interest. This is more so when the same is not applicable for other private channels,” said the Prasar Bharati official.

According to him, the proposal was sent to the I&B ministry early this week.

“We understand that other channels are drawing up plans to cash in on the elections. With its largest reach in the country, Doordarshan is in a great position to benefit from it. Besides, in such a competitive environment, why should Doordarshan operate at a disadvantage,” asked the official.

I&B ministry officials said that the government was examining the proposal and a view would be take soon.

However, they pointed out that the government would take the view of the Election Commission before taking a stand on the issue.

Government allocates time to political parties on Doordarshan depending on their strength in Parliament and the percentage of the votes they have gained in the previous elections.

National political parties are given time on Doorsarshan’s national channels, while state level parties are given time on the regional channels of Doordarshan.

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