Tuning In To NaMo TV

Are the Congress the only ones watching NaMo TV?

WrittenBy:Sunayana Singh
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You have to hand it to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Whether he wins the election or not, he has left no stone unturned to ensure he retains his title. And with such innovative techniques! Not limiting himself to the 3D speeches which were definitely a first in Indian politics, there’s also a brand new television channel constantly spreading his message in Gujarat. Supposedly named after Modi himself, NaMo TV has been on air since October.

Here’s their promo on Youtube. And keeping up to speed with his hologram speeches and Google+ Hangout hi-tech avatar, the promo is stylishly edited and embellished with snazzy music. It’s inspired to say the least, especially the segment where a lion walking majestically towards the camera cuts to a visual of Modi.

Launched on October 4, 2012, the state BJP unit has partnered with five local Gujarati satellite channels in the state to broadcast NaMo TV, according to Daily Bhaskar. It is aired by all cable networks, direct-to-home (DTH) and digital channels. Whether anyone is actually watching it is a good question, although an NDTV news report claims that it’s beamed to 2 crore households in Gujarat, and that it’s primarily women who watch the channel.

So what’s on the channel? As the name suggests, it’s Modi and only Narendra Modi. His oratory skills make him a natural for TV. Take a look at the NaMo TV live stream.

Other than for Modi, there are lots of visuals of infrastructure, agriculture, education, health and other sectors. “The channel often uses the emotional tagline of ‘Gaurav Gujarat’ coupled with programmes that often have the word ‘vikas’ or development in them. ‘Vaat Vikas Ni’ (Development Talk), for instance, has a huge following. In many of its episodes, you see the chief minister out on the streets, at times picking up a broom to clean garbage, or sitting amidst new mothers telling them what to feed their children.” If ever there was an all-purpose chief minister, this is him. (from NDTV report)

So why launch a channel dedicated to Modi, that too on the eve of the elections? The NDTV article quotes BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya as saying, “Modi’s rivals have launched a fallacious campaign to bring him down so we felt the need for a channel that would project the truth – give voice to the BJP workers and highlight the immense work that the chief minister had done for his homeland”

Despite the lofty ideals and selflessness of the channel, NaMo TV’s effort at involving people and airing vox pops on the channel hasn’t gone down well with some people. A local daily, Sandesh has reported that Atul Niranjan Dave, a resident of Ishanpur has filed a complaint of mental harassment against NaMo TV to the election commission. He said that the interviews on the channel are one-sided and fake, and that the cameraperson and correspondent have a pre-decided answer that they want. He’s also stated in his complaint that kesri (saffron)-clad people accompany these correspondents. Make of that what you will.

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According to the report, Dave said that any person who questions or hesitates to answer the NaMo TV representative’s questions, is not asked for his views. The camera team pressurises the interviewee to say “Narendra Modiji zindabad” and “Bhajpa (BJP) will win the election”. He has also accused the channel of misconduct and anti-governmental behavior.

This is not first time that Narendra Modi has launched a channel on the eve of elections. In 2007 too, during elections, Modi had launched Vande Gujarat. At that time the Election Commission had put some restrictions on it.  (See Here)

So does anyone think it’s unfair or unethical to launch a channel at this pre-election stage to beat your own drum? Well the channel was launched on the October 4, 2012 and was promptly shut down on October 5, 2012. According to an Indian Express news report, the channel went off-air for almost a week and the issue of funding was raised before the Election Commission. But in the third week of October, NaMo TV was back on cable. The EC said that the channel expenses will have to be accounted for in the BJP’s party expenditure. It also placed other conditions on it. According to Daily Bhaskar, “The Commission has now cleared the channel launch but has put certain conditions for monitoring political advertisements and possible paid news on the channel during the election period, highly placed sources in the EC said.”

The Congress, caught on the back foot by the media-savvy Modi, has filed complaints against the channel’s content. According to Firstpost, “In its letter to Gujarat chief electoral officer Anita Karwal, Congress alleged that the channel was ‘misrepresenting’ facts to show Union government in poor light”.

Congress election coordination committee chairman Babubhai Patel raised another issue. “Its source of funding, details about its expenses must be sought by the chief electoral officer to verify whether it violates the Model Code of Conduct or not. If it violates the Model Code of Conduct, the airing of the channel should be stopped immediately.”

No doubt deep inside the Gujarat Congress Headquarters, a room is dedicated to NaMo TV, with Congress cadre constantly monitoring the channel to pounce on any irregularities and biases.

The Modi camp will be pleased. Whether or not NaMo TV helps them win the election, at least they know they have some dedicated viewership.

Image source: www.namotv.com

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