THE COMMITTEE ON CONTENT REGULATION IN GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING

  • Delhi Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Vinai Kumar Saxena has directed Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar to implement a 2016 order of the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).
  • The order calls for recovering ₹97.14 crore plus interest from the ruling AamAadmi Party (AAP) for “political advertisements” published or telecast as government advertisements in 2015 and 2016.
  • The move added to the long list of escalations between the AAP-led Delhi government and the L-G.

What is the CCRGA?

  • A three-member body, the CCRGA was formed by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in April, 2016, on the directions of the Supreme Court in its judgment in the Common Cause vs. Union of India case in May, 2015.
  • The body is set up to regulate the content of Central and State government advertisements in all media platforms.
  • The SC had also mandated States to constitute their own respective bodies. While some States have set up committees to regulate public advertising content, some have given consent to the CCRGA to monitor their advertisements.
  • The SC, in its order had also issued a set of guidelines for public-funded advertising by governments.
  • Some of the guidelines mentioned include that government advertising should maintain political neutrality and avoid glorification of political personalities or projecting a positive impression of the party in power or a negative impression of parties critical of the government.
  • They also should not be used at patronising media houses.

What is the CCRGA’s 2016 order?

  • Months after its formation, the CCRGA, following a complaint from Congress leader Ajay Maken, issued notices to the Delhi government on allegations of violation of the SC-mandated guidelines in publishing advertisements.
  • In its response, the Delhi government informed the CCRGA that it was going to form a committee of its own as per the 2015 order of the SC, which mandated that States have to set up their own respective bodies to regulate government advertisements’ content.
  • Maken meanwhile had also approached the Delhi High Court in the matter, which ruled in August, 2016, that Union Territories are not authorised to constitute their own committees and will therefore, come under the jurisdiction of the CCRGA.
  • The CCRGA, after its investigation, passed an order on September 16, 2016, ruling that a number of Delhi government advertisements had violated the guidelines on various fronts such as publishing false/misleading ads, mentioning the party in power by name, self-glorification and targeting political opponents.
  • The committee also directed the Delhi government’s Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP), which issues government campaigns, to identify specific advertisements, quantify the money spent on them, and recover it from the AAP.
  • After quantifying an amount of ₹97,14,69,137 spent on these advertisements, the DIP on March 30, 2017, directed AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal to pay ₹42,26,81,265 to the State exchequer immediately, and to release the remaining amount directly to the agencies/publications which ran the advertisements within 30 days.

What has been the AAP’s response?

  • The AAP has been at the receiving end of political criticism, with rival parties accusing it of spending huge sums of money on government advertising campaigns and publicity.
  • However, the party, since forming the government in 2015, has been defending its spending on advertisements stating that it is for public knowledge of different government schemes and various awareness campaigns.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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