Rules for Political Parties to Use State Funded Media During Polls

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What Changes were Asked from the Opposition Leaders?
  • How ECI Allocates Time to Each Recognised Party for Public Broadcasting During Elections?
  • What are the ECI’s Guidelines on Speech Contents for Public Broadcasting During Elections?
  • What are the Concerns Raised by the Opposition Leaders?

Why in News?

  • In the run-up to the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, two opposition leaders were asked to modify specific parts of their speeches that they had made on Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) during the allotted broadcast time.
  • Prasar Bharati is India’s state-run public broadcaster and the parent organisation of Doordarshan and AIR.

What Changes were Asked from the Opposition Leaders?

  • The CPI (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury had to delete references to the electoral bond scheme, drop terms “communal authoritarian regime” and “draconian laws”, and replace “bankruptcy” (of governance) with “failure”.
  • On the other hand, the All-India Forward Bloc (AIFB) leader G Devarajan was made to remove the word “Muslims” from his speech about the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • According to a Prasar Bharati official, the TV and radio networks were simply following rules set by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

How ECI Allocates Time to Each Recognised Party for Public Broadcasting During Elections?

  • Allocation of time:
    • Since the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, recognised political parties have been allowed to freely use state-owned television and radio during polls.
    • The amount of time allowed to each recognised national and state party before the election campaign begins is decided by the ECI.
  • Amount of time:
    • All national parties (put together) get a minimum of 10 hours of telecasting time on Doordarshan’s national channel, and at least 15 hours on its regional channels.
      • Additionally, they get 15 hours of airing on regional AIR stations and 10 hours on the national AIR.
    • All State parties (put together) get a minimum of 30 hours of telecasting time on the appropriate regional Doordarshan channel and AIR radio station.
  • Time allotted for the current Lok Sabha elections:
    • The ECI allocated broadcast and telecast time to each of the six national parties and 59 state parties for the 2024 elections.
    • For national parties, out of the 10 hours prescribed, a total of 4.5 hours (45 minutes each) was allocated in both Doordarshan and AIR.
    • The remaining 5.5 hours was further allocated on the basis of vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
    • Similar formulae were followed while allocating time to state parties.
    • The ECI had allocated 54 minutes each on Doordarshan and AIR to CPI(M), and 26 minutes each on the two media to AIFB.

What are the ECI’s Guidelines on Speech Contents for Public Broadcasting During Elections?

  • Submit transcripts:
    • Parties and their speakers are expected to submit transcripts of their speeches three to four days before recording.
    • These have to be approved by the concerned authorities in the respective AIR and Doordarshan stations.
  • The guidelines forbid:
    • Criticism of other countries;
    • Attack on religions or communities;
    • Anything obscene or defamatory;
    • Incitement of violence;
    • Anything amounting to contempt of court;
    • Attacks against the integrity of the President and judiciary;
    • Anything affecting the unity, sovereignty and integrity of the nation; and
    • Any criticism by the name of any person.

What are the Concerns Raised by the Opposition Leaders?

  • According to the CPI(M) leader, the censorship applied to his text is a patent denial of the right to dissent in a democracy.
    • The deletion of the word ‘bankruptcy’ of governance and the suggestion to replace it with ‘failure’ only endorses the authoritarian character of the government.
  • According to the AIFB leader, he unsuccessfully argued for the need to use the word ‘Muslim’.
    • According to him, the CAA is discriminatory to Muslims because it mentions every other minority community eligible for citizenship (except Muslims).

Q.1. What is Prasar Bharati?

Prasar Bharati is an Indian state-owned public broadcaster, headquartered in New Delhi, India. It is a statutory autonomous body and comprises the Doordarshan television broadcasting and Akashvani (formerly, All India Radio/ AIR).

Q.2. What is the purpose of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?

The CAA aims to protect individuals who have sought refuge in India due to religious persecution. It offers them a shield against illegal migration proceedings. To be eligible for citizenship, applicants must have entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

Source: Explained: Rules for political parties to use state-funded media during polls