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TV channels to carry political ads despite ban

13-March-2004
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TV channels to carry political ads despite ban

The ban imposed by the Election Commission (EC) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting disallowing television channels from screening the advertisements of political parties ahead of the general elections, seems to have cut little ice with the broadcasters.

They are planning to go ahead and carry such ads.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), at its board meeting held a few days ago, decided that broadcasters should be treated at par with the print media and should not be deprived of this advertising opportunity.

Therefore, television channels must also not be barred from carrying political ads. It estimates that revenues worth about Rs 60 crore could be generated.

Several broadcasters said that they would go ahead and carry political ads based on letters issued by the Election Commission in 2002 and 2003 when it permitted them to carry such ads.

"After the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment in 1999, the EC had issued letters to broadcasters allowing us to air political ads. These letters have not been withdrawn as yet. Therefore, we feel that we can carry political ads," said a senior official in a broadcasting company.

Meanwhile, a petition has been filed by the Sun Group in the Andhra Pradesh High Court on this issue and a decision is expected next week.

Both the I&B Ministry and the EC had earlier said that television channels would not be allowed to carry political ads as the Cable TV Act prohibited them from doing so.

According to the provisions in the Advertisement Code, "No advertisement shall be permitted, the objects whereof, are wholly or mainly of a religious or political nature; advertisements must not be directed towards any religious or political end."

Broadcasters said that the Government has not barred religious channels and several of them have been given permission to uplink from India.

"If religious channels are available, then why is political advertising prohibited?'' they asked.

However, the channels, which are likely to be benefited, are those that are uplinking from India.

Though the Reserve Bank of India relaxed the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Current Account Transactions) Rules, 2000 whereby advertisers having export earnings of less than Rs 10 lakh would be permitted to advertise on channels uplinking from abroad, political parties may not be benefited by this.

"The relaxation is for those who have current accounts and it is unlikely that political parties would have such accounts," said sources.

"Therefore, they would have to take a special permission from the Central Bank if they wish to advertise in channels uplinking from abroad."

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