The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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EC to play ad censor with 10-day preview

New Delhi, April 4: The Election Commission has decided to vet political advertisements on television in the wake of the Supreme Court order of April 2.

At a three-hour meeting last night, the three-member poll panel decided to make it mandatory for all political parties to seek its clearance before telecasting political advertisements.

“All national and recognised political parties will have to submit advertisements (to the commission) for a pre-telecast clearance 10 days before the scheduled telecast,” panel sources said.

A committee, led by a deputy election commissioner, would be set up to vet the advertisements and have the authority to reject those it considers offensive to viewers. Registered, unrecognised parties could submit their ads to the chief electoral officer concerned, the sources said.

A similar process for monitoring print ads is also said to be on the cards, but officials refused to confirm this.

The proposal is expected to be presented to the apex court tomorrow. The court had on Friday banned telecast of all political advertisements that offend the viewers’ “morality, decency and religious susceptibility” and asked the poll panel to scrutinise such ads before clearing them for telecast.

The court order had followed an information and broadcasting ministry petition prompted by reports that an advertisement intended to hurt the image of the BJP and the Prime Minister was scheduled for telecast this week.

The government had argued for a blanket ban as expensive TV advertisements would destroy the level playing field for small political parties.

Earlier, non-government organisations sympathetic to the BJP had put out an ad taking potshots at Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her “foreign origin”.

Faced with the vast cable network and multiple television channels, panel officials said sub-committees, including special observers, need to be set up in the states to make the monitoring effective at the regional level. “How else can you monitor so many regional channels, many of which are backed by the regional political parties'” asked one of the officials.

For instance, the Tamil Nadu rivals, the ADMK and the DMK, use their respective channels, Jaya and Sun TV, for political propaganda. In Kerala, the CPM runs the Kairali channel and state minister M.K. Muneer of the Muslim League runs India Vision.

The panel was earlier reluctant to take on the job of monitoring and had wanted the information and broadcasting ministry to step in.

The apex court had in its order also asked the poll panel whether the money a candidate spends on telecasting ads should be included in his election budget, which has been limited to Rs 25 lakh for each Lok Sabha constituency and Rs 10 lakh for an Assembly seat.

BJP restraint plea

The BJP today urged all politicians to exercise restraint during campaigning, PTI said.

“This advice is not only for (Gujarat chief minister Narendra) Modi, but for all (parties),” BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu said. Modi, who had last week made intemperate remarks against Sonia and her son Rahul, hinted that he would refrain from making further controversial remarks.

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