EC found DD News’s political coverage not in accordance with principle of neutrality.
For nearly one month after the dates of Lok Sabha elections were declared, BJP got close to 160 hours of “airtime coverage” on DD News and its regional channels, while Congress received just half of that, a report by Indian Express has said. On April 5, DD News shared a report with Election Commission on airtime provided to all political parties from the date of announcement of polls till that day. The Congress was second in terms of coverage with 80 hours, while CPM got only eight hours.
Based on this report, the EC on April 9 called airtime to parties “disproportionate”. The poll body also asked Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry to ask DD News to “desist from extending any preferential or disproportionate airtime coverage in favour of any party”, the paper added further.
Justifying the break up, a senior official said it was done on the basis of BJP having majority of seats in the Lok Sabha, while it is also in power in 16 states. The Congress is much smaller, the official argued further. It is because of this that both parties did not get equal coverage. “But if a comparison is made between the BJP and all opposition parties combined, the airtime given is balanced,” the paper quoted the official as saying further.
The EC, however, did not find this explanation acceptable. It also found the political coverage of DD News not in accordance with the principle of neutrality. When Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati was asked why Congress had half the airtime compared to the BJP, he said, “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.”
“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,” he went on to say.