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Andhra Pradesh HC gives green signal to ‘direct’ political advertising on TV

24-March-2004
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Andhra Pradesh HC gives green signal to ‘direct’ political advertising on TV

Political advertising proves to be an interesting aspect of elections. If one thought that I&B Ministry and EC’s ban on political advertising in electronic media cooled things, Gemini TV legally challenging the rule brought the temperature right back. Surrogate advertising through NGOs, following the ban, played their own role to add heat. And now, an Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order in favour of the broadcasters has just sizzled things a little more.

To put things into perspective, the Information and Broadcast Ministry and Election Commission stated that television channels, as per the Cable Network Regulation Act, were forbidden to carry any political ad. Following this, Sun Network’s Gemini TV filed a petition questioning the ruling. As per a PTI report, the decision in the case is taken. The report states that Andhra Pradesh High Court strikes down the rule 7 (3) under the Act, calling it discriminatory and violating the right to freedom of trade and business.

With the order issues yesterday, not enough time has lapsed to see direct political advertisements on TV already but does that mean that the broadcast was clear of political communication post the ban? Not really. NGOs like Sajhi Virajat Trust and Aasmik Educational Trust carried ads in print and TV with different creatives. While in print Sajhi Virajat Trust addressed issues like unemployment and showed support towards Congress Party, in TV it refrained from mentioning the political party’s name but kept the issue.

However, broadcasters don’t seem to think that this is a surrogate advertising of any kind. G Krishnan, Executive Director and CEO, TV Today Network expresses, “Going strictly by the facts, these organisations are trusts and any trust can take a cause and make people aware of issues. Even if you look at the ads, it is not necessary that there are similar media consumers for print and TV to bring in any kind of association.”

Rohit Gupta, Executive Vice President, Sales, SET India agrees. Says he, “Look at the creatives. There is no mention of any party or even of the word voting or elections.” If that is indeed the case and advertising of this kind is a mere coincidence, it’s a lucky one for political parties.

However, now there is no need for political parties to make such an indirect presence. Given that campaigns on TV Networks are national campaigns, a definite aspect of Andhra Pradesh ruling is that the effect is nationwide.

So what does this ruling imply for broadcasters? Has it finally got the ball rolling for official national level political advertising in electronic media? “I suppose so,” replies Krishnan, “It is actually very premature for me to say anything on this right now. It will take a couple more days for things to be clear. But essentially this is more of what political parties decide hereon.”

On a general note he says that since political advertising in any case utilises print medium, it only makes sense to make it available on broadcast as information. Gupta too doesn’t have a lot to say on the high court order. He comments, “We have not seen the order yet and we are waiting to see it before we react. So there is nothing to concretely comment on it now.”

A point that Gupta informs us is that discussions with political parties have been on for a very long time. Even in the situation of the ban, the discussions hadn’t ceased absolutely. He believes that following this order, things should get into motion fast. Says he, “We are ready as soon as things are clearer.”

And this is the case with Zee News as well. Laxmi Goel, Director, News Group, Zee Telefilms divulges, “Prior to the ban, we booked quite a few ads for different parties. Of course, depending on the budgets of political parties, these ads will be run again. With the High Court order now, we are open to new bookings.”

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