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At least one person will be employed to monitor each of India’s 716 districts. Staff will be tasked with broadcasting the govt’s success stories via WhatsApp.

New Delhi: The NDA government has begun working on its communication strategy for the 2019 general elections and key state polls later this year and, as a first step, will set up a ‘national command centre’ to monitor media reports across the country.

This media hub will deploy eyes and ears on the ground right down to the district level to track the local media, detect and neutralise “fake” or negative reports about the government, push positive stories and achievements of the government and analyse public sentiment.

The media hub is likely to come up in the capital at an approximate cost of Rs 19 crore. This includes the salaries of the more than 700 people – at least one person will be in charge of each of the 716 districts of India.

Sources say the reports compiled by the district-level staff will be first vetted by the regional additional director general of the Press Information Bureau before being sent to the central setup. The district-level staff will also have to start WhatsApp broadcast groups at the districts to establish a direct communication channel with the public – a platform which will be used to push success stories about the government.

The government wants the media hub to be up and running by March this year, but with the amount of work involved in the process, the deadline may be extended by a few more months. The idea of setting up a central media hub is more than two years old, but work on it has gathered pace only now.

The media hub will be an add-on to the existing Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) and the New Media Wing (NMW) under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. While the EMMC is tasked with monitoring television channels for advertising and programming code violations, the NMW monitors social media and produces reports on trending topics.

RFP for procuring software & service

Meanwhile, as part of the effort, a fresh request for proposal (RFP) has also been invited for procuring software and service for the government’s social media communication hub, which had been operating under the NMW. The contracts of the previous agencies handling the social media hub were terminated a few months ago by the I&B ministry.

The RFP document says that the social media analytical tool would be required to trawl social media platforms and the web for data mining, identify top social media influencers, measure the efficacy of the government’s hashtag campaigns, counter negative publicity, and monitor social media sentiments.

The tool should have the capability to categorise social media conversations and other references on the web into positive, negative and neutral as viewed by the I&B ministry, it states, adding that 20 social media analytics executives will provide reports on sentiment, reach, and details related to trending topics and hashtags.

It also says it would be required to carry out predictive analysis and see how public perception can be moulded in a positive manner for the country, including ways to inculcate nationalistic feelings in the masses, improving India’s perception in the world, and also ways to predict and neutralise “the media blitzkrieg of India’s adversaries” and give a “positive slant” to social media and internet news/discussions.

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