Will the ban on political ads in Delhi Metro impact parties negatively?

While the Delhi High Court laud EC’s move, industry experts decry its decision to single out the DMRC while allowing other public properties like buses and autos to carry political ads

e4m by Shreshtha Verma
Updated: Feb 7, 2020 8:51 AM
Political ads in DMRC

A few days ago, the Delhi High Court upheld the Election Commission's decision to prohibit political ads in the Delhi metro or DMRC premises when the model code of conduct is imposed. The EC said that there should be a sense of trust among the people that the government is not partisan to any political party by not allowing advertisements on any state or public sector property.
Recently, Delhi High Court said that the moratorium was just and fair. Justice Sanjeev Sachdev also praised the reasoning of the Election Commission.

The court issued the order, dismissing the petition of an advertising agency, which challenged the Election Commission directive of June 2019. It had asked Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to add a clause in its tender with advertising agencies that they would not show political advertisements while the model code of conduct is in force.

DMRC has been a key medium for advertisers since its inception. From big brands to political parties, the Delhi metro has always been used as a strong medium to connect with the commoners of the capital city.

While political advertising is allowed on other public properties like buses and autos’, singling out DMRC is highly unfair, believe experts. At the same time, elections have always been a big opportunity for media owners at DMRC to make a financial profit. However, this directive has not been letting the media owners leverage the Delhi Elections.

We spoke to the industry experts to know whether the ban may affect political parties and their agendas in any way.

According to Praveen Gupta, Managing Director, EG Communications banning OOH ads in DMRC during Delhi elections is going to have a great impact on voter’s decisions.
There are around 35 lakh commuters who travel in the Delhi Metro on a daily basis and spend more than an hour of their day in the metro or DMRC premises. In such a scenario, Gupta believes the ban will surely cause a massive loss to the political parties and their agendas for Delhi elections.

From students to working professionals, the daily commuters are varied, and interestingly, a majority of them belong to Delhi who will cast their vote on the 8th. Not being able to grab their attention will surely make a difference, according to Gupta.

“Since its establishment, DMRC has always been a key platform for advertisers as well as for political advertising during elections. Even in Loksabha elections, all the major parties invested heavily in OOH advertising in DMRC,” he elucidated.

Criticizing the decision of EC and High court to not allow political advertising in DMRC, Gupta said while political campaigning is allowed on other public conveyance, singling out DMRC is highly unfair.

This decision is also going to affect the business of the media owners at DMRC who are in huge loss.

Pawan Bansal, COO, Jagran Engage also thinks that the ban in the major public transport of Delhi is highly inequitable. According to Bansal DMRC is the perfect platform to connect with the four million potential voters who travel through Delhi Metro on an everyday basis.

These days, there has been a spike in the average number of commuters in the DMRC due to the ongoing protests at Shaheen Bagh. Hence this directive of EC and Delhi High Court causes a huge communication gap between the commoners of Delhi, he said.

Finding the EC's directive and High Court’s support unfair, Bansal revealed that he along with the leader of advertising fraternity went to the court but got no relief. Now a double-bench hearing is scheduled for March and advertisers to hope to get some relief from the court.

While on the contrary Pramod Bhandula, Managing Director, JCDecaux India feels that this directive is not going to harm political parties and their agendas in any way.

He feels that the standalone medium of the DMRC will have no impact on political parties as they have utilised additional OOH mediums to reach out to the masses. “All the major political parties in India are efficient enough to connect with the people through different mediums of OOH. They have their agendas set,” Bhandula concluded.

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