NaMo TV controversy, Introspect on news content, EMFA urges channels

Guwahati: The gate-keeping role of traditional media has been
questioned by observers, despite the advent of social media where
everyone has a say but there is little credible analysis. Reacting to
the recent controversy over NaMo TV, the Electronic Media Forum Assam
(EMFA) has urged news channels in particular to introspect whether
they too are facing a major credibility challenge.

The forum, in a statement issued today, posed the question whether
common viewers are turning to raw news rather than interpretative news
content aired by recognized news channels. If the answer is yes, it
could mean professional journalists are being rendered irrelevant as
news consumers prefer ‘unedited’ content to make up their minds about
public issues ‘without any journalistic manipulation’.

It may be noted that since March 31 last, a new 24×7 channel, named
NaMo TV, became available in all major direct-to-home (DTH) and cable
platforms across the country. It started telecasting mostly full (or
‘uncut’) speeches, some in real time, of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
and a few other leaders and Union ministers of Bhartiya Janata Party
(BJP).

NaMo TV doesn’t feature on the list of Information and Broadcasting
Ministry’s (GoI) permitted private satellite TV channels and hence
since its arrival, a major debate has been sparked over its legality
and ownership. The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have complained
to the Election Commission (EC) against the channel, arguing that it
violates the model code of conduct, following which the EC sent
notices to the concerned ministry.

Meanwhile, former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi, in a recent
interview, commented that NaMo TV does not violate the poll code,
which came into effect on March 10 with the Election Commission
declaring the 7-phase national polls starting from April 11, counting
of which would take place on May 23.

Named after Narendra Modi, the channel carries a photograph of the
Prime Minister on its logo, and is understood as being described as a
‘special advertisement platform’, whose expenses are being borne by
the ruling BJP. Prime Minister Modi himself has tweeted about the
channel and asked people to watch it, following which millions of
saffron supporters and sympathizers have been glued to NaMo TV.
“A real challenge is emerging before registered news channels (many of
these having already turned into purveyors of cheap ‘infotainment’),
as millions of Indian viewers now seem to prefer to watch and listen
to political leaders of their liking without any biased editing and
interpretations. Mainstream media will be sidetracked into irrelevance
if news consumers start seeing it as a biased, corrupt entity covertly
pushing its own agenda,” warned the EMFA statement.

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