New Delhi: The Supreme Court-mandated Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA) issued a notice to the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government Monday seeking clarifications on an advertisement it placed in Mumbai editions of prominent newspapers on 16 July.
A statement issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the official communication arm of the Narendra Modi government, said the committee took suo motu cognisance of the points raised on social media against the Delhi government advertisement.
The advertisement on the Delhi school results was issued by the Department of Education and the Directorate of Information & Publicity of the Arvind Kejriwal government.
The PIB statement said questions were raised on social media on the need for the Delhi government to issue advertisements of its school results in Mumbai newspapers. It also said some were of the view that the advertisements were only for political messaging.
The Delhi government, however, called the notice “politically motivated”. Speaking to ThePrint, a spokesperson also said CCRGA had no “jurisdiction” over the Delhi government.
AAP govt gets 60 days to reply
The committee has given the Delhi government 60 days to submit its comments. The panel has sought to know the cost to exchequer for the advertisements, the purpose for it to be published in editions other than in Delhi, and the media plan of the said advertisement with names of publications and their editions.
It has also sought to know how the advertisement does not violate the Supreme Court’s guidelines of avoiding glorification of political personalities.
Talking about the move, central government sources said nothing justifies advertising about Delhi school results in Mumbai, that too in full-page advertisements on the front pages of different dailies.
“A state government can issue a government advertisement in another state, but as per the guidelines there has to be a reason for using or wasting government money. Are the advertisements for the Mumbai government,” a senior official in the central government asked.
A second central government official said the Centre has significantly reduced giving out advertisements to dailies as it thinks it is a wastage of money and does not give out effective messaging.
“The government has realised that its messaging on social media and others are more effective,” the official said.
Sources had earlier told ThePrint that while there is an advertisement budget and media plans in place, most ads remain pending with the ad approval cell of the Prime Minister’s Office not clearing most ads.
‘Committee has become tool of political vendetta’
The AAP government, meanwhile, said the CCRGA didn’t have “jurisdiction over Delhi government”.
“The notice issued by CCRGA today to Delhi government is politically motivated. CCRGA was formed in 2016 by Central govt. Since then, how many notices has it issued? Only two. Both to Delhi govt,” a Delhi government spokesperson told ThePrint in reply to a text massage seeking a comment on the notice.
“It (the committee) It has not issued any notice to either central govt or to any other state govt. Every day, Delhi’s newspapers feature full page ads of UP govt or some other state govt. Just today, two full pages of ads featuring Madhya Pradesh CM and his schemes have appeared in Delhi’s papers. Since CCRGA has taken suo moto notice of the newspaper ads of Delhi government coming in Maharashtra, how come they have not taken suo moto notice of any of the ads of all other state governments coming daily in Delhi newspapers?”
The spokesperson added that the CCRGA’s “silence on all these is indicative of how it has become a tool of political vendetta”.
“Last time the CCRGA issued a notice to Delhi government on violation of advertisement guidelines in 2016. Lower courts have struck down the order of CCRGA. Since then, Delhi government has created its own State-level Committee for this purpose, so CCRGA doesn’t even have jurisdiction over Delhi government.”
The new content regulation on government ads
According to new guidelines on content regulation in government advertisements, issued by the Supreme Court in 2015, such campaigns should be related to government responsibilities.
This implies the content of the government advertisements should be relevant to constitutional and legal obligations as well as the citizens’ rights and entitlements.
“The advertisement materials should be presented in an objective, fair and presentable manner and are designed to meet the objectives of the campaign to ensure maximum reach in a cost effective way, accurate information in the ads and not presenting pre existing policies and products as new,” the court had then ruled.
It also stated that the advertisement content should not promote the political interests of the ruling party, which may include avoiding glorification of political personalities and maintaining political neutrality, attacking opposition and displaying party political logos.
The advertising campaigns should be efficient, need-based and cost effective and must comply with legal requirements, the court had said.
The SC-mandated committee
In line with Supreme Court directions on 13 May 2015, the Modi government had on 6 April 2016 set up a three-member panel to look into content regulation in government-funded advertisements on all media platforms.
The committee either addresses complaints from the public on advertisements deemed as a violation of the Supreme Court guidelines or takes suo motu cognisance of any violations to issue recommendations.
The panel is headed by former chief election commissioner of India Om Prakash Rawat, and its members include Ramesh Narayan of the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations and Ashok Tandon, a member of the Prasar Bharati Board.
The panel is the only body that looks at content regulation of government advertisements, and there was no authority to look at such content regulation before it was formed.
(With inputs from Aneesha Bedi)
This report has been updated to include the Delhi government’s comments on the notice.
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