NaMo TV is an 'advertisement based platform' distributed by various Direct To Home (DTH) operators and availed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India's Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry told BOOM in an exclusive Right To Information (RTI) reply.
It is not a registered channel that needs permission to air, the I&B Ministry further said.
The reply comes more than a month after NaMo TV quietly started airing on television sets across the country.
The ambiguous nature of the channel which aired content ranging from advertisements for government schemes, the prime minister's speeches, interviews of the finance minister to nationalist Bollywood movies, sparked a debate on social media over its timing, ownership and legality just ahead of general elections.
In the same RTI, the I&B Ministry also said, "The DTH operators do not require to take any permission from an authority/Ministry of I&B for showing content on the Platform Services".
NaMo TV which borrows Prime Minister Narendra Modi's name and has his face on its logo, started airing on March 26, 2019, just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
DTH operators including Tata Sky, Videocon and Dish TV all aired NaMo TV as a free-to-air service, meaning subscribers do not have to pay to view the channel.
Viewers were also not given an option to unsubscribe from the channel.
Dear @TRAI , there isn’t any option on app/website to unsubscribe Namo TV on @TataSky channel no. 512.— Fekoslovakistan (@fekoslovakistan) April 7, 2019
Tried calling and requesting to stop it their response is like we can’t stop it now and put the call on hold and finally disconnected the call. pic.twitter.com/HsxTGhvrdV
In a exclusive reply to an RTI filed by BOOM, the I&B Ministry has revealed that NaMo TV is not a registered channel but an ad sales channel.
BOOM had filed an RTI to the I&B Ministry on April 8, 2019 asking eight questions about the ownership, nature and permission sought by the channel.
The questions we asked are as follows.
The RTI reply dated May 6, 2019 is signed by P Nagarajan, Under secretary to the Government of India and the Chief Public Information Officer.
The I&B Ministry in response to questions 1 -7 which include a question on the nature of NaMo TV as registered with the I&B Ministry, whether it is a news, entertainment channel or an ad sales service, said the following.
"The NaMo TV is not a registered channel. It is an advertisement platform service which is being distributed by various DTH operators exclusively to its own subscribers" and the "BJP has availed the said Platform Services of DTH operators on commercial basis."
In response to permissions needed to operate and air such a channel, the I&B said,
"The DTH operators do not require to take any permission from an authority/Ministry of I&B for showing content on the Platform Services or offering such services to its subscribers."
The Ministry has also stated that the RTI had been forwarded to the Election Commission of India to answer question number 8 asked by BOOM - "Please state if the Ministry aware of instances where political parties have rented/owned TV channels to broadcast content curated by them. If yes, details thereof."
BOOM had previously on April 4, 2019 reported that the I&B ministry's website had no details about NaMo TV including who owned it and whether any permissions were sought before airing it. The ministry had earlier not responded to repeated calls and mails sent by BOOM asking about details of NaMo TV.
Interestingly, when BOOM had earlier contacted spokespersons of two DTH operators, their replies contradicted each other.
While the DishTV spokesperson had said, “The channel is as ad sales service which means that they are not registered as entertainment or news on our service", the Tata Sky, a spokesperson responded by saying, “Tata Sky has its own channel for ad sales. We cannot have any ad sales channel apart from this according to our company policies and guidelines.”
In complete contradiction to this reply, Harit Nagpal, CEO, Tata Sky, told NDTV, "NaMo TV is not a Hindi news service. If someone in the frontline at Tata Sky has tweeted or said that it is a news service, it is a mistake. “NaMo TV does not fall into any genre” and the feed is “coming from the BJP via Internet. Special services do not need a license.”
Nagpal's reply was in response to a tweet by Tata Sky's official handle which called NaMo TV a Hindi news service.
Channel no 512 is NAMO TV, it is a Hindi news service which provides the latest breaking news on national politics ^Rudra— Tata Sky (@TataSky) March 28, 2019
BJP had also announced the launch of NaMo TV from its official handle.
Recently, the party wrote to the Election Commission seeking permission to air two movies starring Akshay Kumar - 'Padman' and 'Toilet - Ek Prem Katha' on NaMo TV.
Meanwhile, NaMo TV continues to air the prime minister's speeches, interviews and advertisements about the various schemes launched by his party.
मोदी की कहानी, मोदी की जुबानी...— BJP (@BJP4India) May 11, 2019
आज रात 8 बजे, न्यूज नेशन पर।
∙ NaMo TV#DeshKeDilMeiModi pic.twitter.com/ue10zKdGBr