| EC, which oversees the conduct of state
and general elections in India, has sought clarifications from Prasar
Bharati on whether the relaunch of DD News early-November breaches
the model poll of conduct, considering that the channel's new avtaar
and upkeep would be financed by the government.
According to the model code of election conduct, the government
cannot take decisions that may seem to be amounting to handing out
sops to the general populace
or highlighting its own achievements.
This temporary ban starts from the time election dates are announced
by the EC and remains in effect till the whole poll process is over.
Five Indian states, including the Union Territory of Delhi, will
go to polls between November and December.
According to government sources, Prasar Bharati, which oversees
the functioning of DD and All India Radio (AIR), has today replied
to the EC via the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry.
It is up to the EC to take a decision now on DD News' relaunch.
Efforts made to elicit a response from the Commission today proved
futile as both the election commissioner J M Lyngdoh and his deputy
were said to be out of town on official trips.
According to government sources, Prasar Bharati's stand is that
the relaunch of DD News in no way breaches the model code of conduct
that becomes applicable on the government as also other political
In its reply, Prasar Bharati is understood to have said that the
decision to relaunch DD News was taken by its board on 11 July and
the file concerned had been moving between Prasar Bharati and the
I&B ministry since January.
Moreover, Prasar Bharati has also indicated that if the EC thinks
relaunching of a channel is a breach of model poll conduct, then
nothing stops it from increasing the news bulletins and current
affairs programming, in general, on DD.
However, what is causing concern in some quarters is the fact that
the Indian Cabinet okayed government assistance - amounting to approximately
Rs 270 million - for the remaining part of the current financial
year, to DD News recently and after the election dates had been
Some political observers here have contended that the fact that
DD News - funded by the government - is to be relaunched just before
the polls may be reason enough for the EC to see red.
Over the last few days, the EC has been very active and has directed
the government to withdraw some advertisements in newspapers and
on TV channels. Even the finance ministry had to discontinue a campaign,
India Shining owing to EC diktat.
Can the new DD News prove to be beneficial for the present government
that does have bright poll prospects in some of the states, including
Delhi? This cannot be said with certainty as most of the content
for the news channel is to be generated in-house.
However, few private producers, who are likely to get some work
from DD News, are a mixed lot, including those with soft corners
for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Meanwhile, it would be interesting to note that in the late 1990s,
the EC had stopped the government from announcing a decision on
DD's then proposed forays into KU-band direct-to-home television
service. Reason: it amounted to a breach of model code of conduct.
Will history repeat itself? Watch this space for more on DD News.