Modi led NDA 2 government has been seeing its share of controversies lately, including Lalitgate, Vyapam scam, the various bans and even the two alleged scams in Maharashtra. Incidentally, the controversies surrounding the Ministry of Information and Broadcast (MIB) have seen a rise recently. We take a look at all the controversies surrounding I&B Ministry during the NDA 2 rule and previous UPA 2 regime.
MIB controversies during NDA 2 government
Sun TV Network licenses: This is one controversy which also began just two months back and still continues. It began when Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) denied security clearance to 33 TV channels which needed it to MIB to renew its license. The MHA had also denied the security clearance to 45 radio stations under the Sun TV Network. While initially the MIB had asked for the MHA to review its decision and also consulted with senior law officials including the attorney general Mukul Rohatgi regarding the decision, it later emerged through media reports that senior officials from MIB were favoring the MHA’s stance on not giving Sun TV the license. This was evident when it took to the decision to leave Sun TV Network’s radio brands Red FM and Surya FM out of the phase III auctions. Sun TV eventually had to approach the court to get the permission to participate in the auctions.
Ban on content on TV: The MIB had also seen a lot of bans during the tenure of the NDA 2 government.
The MIB had received some flak from media on this. The MIB ban on the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ by British film maker Leslee Udwin which was to be aired on NDTV drew a lot of criticism from the media as well as on social media. It further gave warned other news channels not to air the documentary. It recently also show cause notices ABP News, NDTV 24x7 and Aaj Tak for airing content of Yakub Memon’s case on the day of his execution and was said to allegedly be disrespecting the Indian Judiciary system and the President of India. Another ban issued by MIB was on Al Jazeera for 5 days from April 22 to April 27 stating that the channel had shown a map of India which failed to include certain parts of India within its boundaries. Apart from this, other bans included NDTV Good Times and Jai Hind banned for a day earlier in April for broadcasting programmes with obscene content. Gujarat-based TV channel Satlon News TV had been banned for 30 days starting from April 15 for showing a news item that contained nude visuals of a TV actor. TLC, under Discovery, was also banned for a day on April 9 for airing of a show which contained unedited sexual language.
FTII appointments: One of the biggest controversies to hit the I&B Ministry recently is the appointment of the heads for the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). The controversy erupted after the MIB appointed television actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman of the country’s premier film education institute on June 10. Chauhan was best known for playing Yudhishthira in the popular Mahabharata TV series that aired on Doordarshan between 1988-90. Other than this he appeared on smaller TV soaps and several ‘B’ grade Bollywood films. Chauhan who joined the BJP in 2004 has extensively campaigned for them in Haryana during the Lok Sabha elections. This brought the ire of the students at FTII who questioned his appointment by the MIB after the institute was helmed by internationally renowned film makers, Indian theatre experts and literature greats such as Adoor Gapalakrishnan, R.K. Laxman, Shyam Benegal, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Mrinal Sen, Girish Karnad, Mahesh Bhatt, Vinod Khanna and Saeed Akhtar Mirza.
The issue further escalated after the MIB appointed reconstituted the FTII panel where 4 of the 8 appointed were said to be RSS propagandists. It included Anagha Ghaisas, who has made several documentary films of PM Narendra Modi, former president of the Maharashtra ABVP Narendra Pathak, Pranjlal Saikia an office bearer of an RSS-linked organization and Rahul Solapurkar who is said to be intimately associated with the BJP. This has further fueled the student agitations who have gone on strike for more the 57 days. However, their protests have intensified with the joining of several other student groups from other colleges such as the All India Students’ Association (AISA), Satyajit Ray Film Institute and students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). It has also attracted political attention as former AAP member Yogendra Yadav and even Rahul Gandhi had recently visited the FTII campus in Pune.
Republic Day ad: The MIB received flak from opposition parties in the parliament for a print advertisement it issued on Republic Day which had the Preamble to the Constitution without the words “secular” and “socialist”. The mandatory advertisement had the image of the original preamble which was used instead of the existing one which was amended in 1976 and includes the words “secular” and “socialist”.
MIB controversies during UPA 2 tenure
Though there were several controversies that hit the previous UPA 2 government such as the Coal-gate scam, the Adarsh scam, 2G spectrum scam, chopper scam, Commonwealth games controversies, etc., there were very few relating to the MIB. Some of the few controversies during the government are below.
Delays in license approval: The MIB during the UPA 2 tenure had seen a several delays in the approval of TV channel licenses and seen a large backlog on pending approvals. A total of 37 new TV channel licenses were issued by the end of 2014, most of which came in the latter half of the year. 26 TV channel licenses were cleared by the NDA government as opposed to 11 new TV licenses cleared by the previous UPA government in 2014. Some of the TV channel licenses which were pending since a year under the UPA government were cleared immediately when the new government was set up. A case in point was the TV channel license of the Hindi channel EPIC which was expected to be launched by the end of 2013 and had to be delayed by a year due to no clearance received from the MIB.
Digitization delays: Though the UPA 2 government brought about the digitization of the cable TV industry, it however had seen several delays in the implementation of DAS phase I & II. There were several hiccups in the digitization of markets such as Kolkata and Chennai. Also, despite digitization the analog system of bundling channels still continues, which also shows that despite digitization the age old analog system still continues. This shows that the MIB had not implemented the digitization process in an organized manner at the time and has left many gaps in the system till now.
In comparison to the MIB during the UPA 2 government had far less controversies than the current tenure of the ministry. It is yet to be seen how the MIB will douse the flames of controversies that have erupted.