New Delhi: Public broadcasters All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan may have escaped violating the Election Commission’s model code of conduct for airing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to the nation to announce ‘Mission Shakti’ by taking the feed of the speech from YouTube.
The poll panel is studying the Prime Minister’s surprise announcement of the A-SAT missile test Wednesday to see if it violated the model code, which is in place after election dates were announced on 10 March.
While all the addresses to the nation by the PM are shown live or recorded and aired by Doordarshan and AIR, the Modi government went to YouTube for Wednesday’s speech in light of the model code restrictions, top government sources told ThePrint.
As public broadcasters bound by the code of conduct, DD and AIR would have had to seek permission from the EC if they had to broadcast the address directly. But the two broadcasters had not sought such permission before Wednesday’s broadcast, the sources said.
“The announcement was aired across the entire AIR network around the same time. No permission from EC was sought before the broadcast,” a top EC official said. “Even a non-political address like Mann Ki Baat (the PM’s monthly radio address) has to be cleared by the EC if it has to be broadcast during the model code of conduct,” the official added.
However, a highly-placed government source said Doordarshan and All India Radio were “not involved in the PM’s A-SAT speech at all”. “They simply borrowed the feed like everyone else, and there is no violation of the (election) code in doing so,” the source added.
The commission got to know about the PM’s speech only after the information came out in the media, and the officials concerned were immediately asked to closely watch the speech, the source said.
After the PM’s address, the EC held an internal meeting and decided to set up a committee of officers to probe the speech for possible violations of the model code.
While prima facie there seems to be no violation by AIR and DD, the committee will look into all possible issues concerning Wednesday’s speech by the PM, including if taking the feed from YouTube and airing the speech violated the model code.
The model code prohibits ministers from using government platforms for political advertising of any kind or use of government machinery to promote the work done by a government after the code comes into force.
The fourth point under the ‘Party in Power’ section of the MCC says, “…Misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news & publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided.”
This report has been updated to include new information and comments.