NaMo TV, a free-to-air BJP-sponsored channel that had appeared across several DTH providers in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, has been taken off air as polling concluded.
On March 26, 2019, NaMo TV, which borrows Prime Minister Narendra Modi's name and face, silently went on air across major direct-to-home (DTH) service providers like Tata Sky, DishTV, Siti Cable, d2h and Videocon.
While its initial release stirred up a controversy with regards to its ownership, BJP confirmed its affiliation to the channel three days after it went on air with a tweet.
Throughout the course of the Lok Sabha elections, the channel aired Modi's rallies and speeches, along with films with patriotic overtones and a special broadcast of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaking about the achievements of the BJP. In between the rallies and movies, it also aired advertisements related to the BJP.
Conundrum of Confusion and Controversy
The mysterious appearance of NaMo TV, which was briefly named Content TV, was mired in controversy and confusion since its early days of release with regards to its licensing and ownership.
While going through the list of Permitted Private Satellite TV Channels published by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B), BOOM found no mention of NaMo TV, thus suggesting that it was being aired without a license.
The obscure nature of this unlicensed channel had caused confusion even among DTH service providers. When a Twitter user made a query to Tata Sky about the nature of the channel, the an employee replied by saying that it is a 'Hindi news service which provides the latest breaking news on national politics'.
On April 4, 2019, Harit Nagpal, CEO of Tata Sky, contradicted the statement of his own employee and told NDTV that NaMo TV is not a Hindi news channel.
"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."- Harit Nagpal, CEO, Tata Sky in conversation with NDTV
The I&B Ministry, in response to an RTI filed by BOOM, had also confirmed that NaMo TV is not a registered channel but an ad sales channel. It also stated that "DTH operators do not require to take any permission from an authority/Ministry of I&B for showing content on the Platform Services"
It Came, It Advertised, It Left
On May 19, 2019, BOOM was notified that the channel had suddenly been taken off air. Upon verification, it was nowhere to be found on Tata Sky, Dish TV and Videocon.
BOOM reached out to Amit Malviya, the head of BJP's IT Cell, who confirmed that the channel was taken off air on May 17, 2019.
"NaMo TV has gone off air effective 17th May when all campaign had to be paused."- Amit Malviya, BJP IT Cell, Head
The channel was taken off air in accordance to the MCC regulations set by the Election Commission, which dictate that all forms of campaigning be stopped 48 hours prior to the last day of voting.
NaMo TV Reloaded
This was not the first time this channel had made an appearance on our television screens.
In 2012, in the run up to the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections in December, a channel called NaMo Gujarat was launched for a limited period of time. The channel was dedicated solely to then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and was taken down abruptly towards the end of polling.