EC Raps DD News For Giving 160 Hrs of Coverage to BJP & 80 to Cong
The Election Commission, on 9 April, said the airtime given to parties by DD News ahead of the Lok Sabha elections have been "disproportionate" and "not balanced", reported The Indian Express.
This comes after a report shared by the news channel with the EC on 5 April said the BJP got 160 hours of airtime coverage on DD News and its regional channels while the Congress only got only half that time, about 80 hours, since 10 March, the day when the election dates were announced.
According to the 5 April report, the principal opposition party, which stood second in terms of airtime coverage, was followed by the CPM with roughly eight hours time on air since, as per The Indian Express.
By balance, it does not mean that each party gets exactly the same air time but the parties should broadly be given the same amount of time on air. It further adds, "Balance implies that to no reasonable person should it appear that one political party is being projected to the exclusion of others."
The EC has asked the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry to direct DD News to “desist from extending any preferential or disproportionate airtime coverage in favour of any party”.
Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati told The Indian Express:
“Coverage is a continuous process spanning the entire network of more than 30 TV channel/stations and several 100 radio stations. It would be flawed and inaccurate to draw inferences from a snapshot at any given point in time. However we have taken note of the observations and comments of the Election Commission regarding proportion of coverage as was conveyed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”Shashi Shekhar Vempati, CEO, Prasar Bharati
He added, “In response we have sensitised the entire network to these observations and comments. Additionally a committee has also been set up for editorial supervision and monitoring. Periodically data will be collected and a report will be shared with the Election Commission.”
“Let me also add that DD and AIR as media units of Prasar Bharati have a primary responsibility to discharge as mandated by the Prasar Bharati Act Section 12. Editorial decisions will be guided by sub section 2(b) of Section 12 of the Act. It may also be borne in mind that the Public Broadcaster has to compete with the private broadcasters for viewership and listenership and, hence, news worthiness is also an important consideration in editorial decisions. However, every effort will be made to ensure balance and compliance while discharging our mandate as required by the Act and complying with the Election Commission’s observations and comments,” he said
The Congress first raised alarm on the Lok Sabha coverage of DD News on 1 April alleging that the channel was giving preferential treatment to the BJP. Congress had cited the 84-minute live broadcast of PM Narendra Modi's 'Main Bhi Chowkidaar Hoon' address on 31 March.
Even the CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had requested the EC to ask DD and AIR to give as much prominence to other political leaders as PM Modi's address to the nation on anti-satellite test. The EC had then asked for a report.