Role of Observers (MCMC & Media)

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The important role played by observers in election management and their relationship with the media. It covers the responsibilities of the Election Commission in facilitating the media's legitimate role, challenges in communication, and the role of Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMCs).

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  1. Role of Observers (MCMC & Media) Sheyphali Sheyphali B B Sharan Sharan , , DG Media, ECI

  2. Media is omnipresent. Commission treats media as an ally in election management - as its eyes and ears. Commission infact facilitates the legitimate role of media in elections - Authority Letters are issued by Commission for Media to enter Polling Stations and Counting Centers. Election time is media s special time they are specially alert to pick up glitches, opine and spread message at lightning speed.

  3. ECI & Media An Important ally ECI s two fold relationship with Media Media Facilitation Media Management ECI does not regulate media. Responsibility to enforce the provisions of law on media or certain aspects of media functioning. Media Passes for entry into polling Stations & Counting Centers Media centers at state and district level Free Air time allocation to political parties on public broadcaster based on past performance Pre-certification of Political Ads Paid News Compliance with Election Laws/Supreme Court orders National Media Awards for voter education Media Monitoring to avoid violations 3

  4. CHALLENGES OF COMMUNICATION With Social media a tectonic shift in Media landscape 24x7 alertness Little Response time Cascading effect across State Boundaries, International Ramifications Varied segmentation of voters gender, age group cohorts, service voters, Diaspora Multi layered communication Combating misinformation Information overload competing for eyeballs Consistency of messaging - Authenticity, credibility 4 3/16/2023

  5. 1. Apart from work done by Electoral Machinery, Perception Management equally crucial - Vital to Observe Media space/ Media Reporting too - can serve as helpful feedback of local issues. On arrival, meet with DEOs including the Nodal Officers of Media Cell for Media matters. (Teams to brief about Media Certification and Monitoring Committees pre-certification of political advertisements; Paid News matters; violation of Model Code of Conduct in media space - silence period; Social Media vigil - time bound action under Voluntary Code of Ethics; virtual campaign issues; equitable sharing of air time on DD/AIR) Inputs from District Media Cell - clippings about elections and advertisements. 2. 3.

  6. Observers are eyes and ears of the Commission, not the mouthpiece. Usually General Observer deputed at State HQ is member of State Level MCMC. Expenditure Observers to take special note of Paid News instances. To supervise that laid down procedures are followed. Avoid Press Meets, Press interaction and Press Statements. Guide most questions to the DEOs office ( As in list of DON Ts in your Manual.) Be Observant - see local media reports both electronic, print and social media if necessary engage translators and call for extracts, vernacular press is particularly informative about local issues which may escape official channels.

  7. CEOs sends two hourly Action Taken Report on the media feedback on pre- poll and poll day to the Commission. Timely alerts/response/action taken for Take down requests esply on social media handles (as per laid down procedure by nodal officers) can curtail many a misinformation/ hate speech, fake news instances derailing electoral processes/ disrupt narratives Media Teams to function on FACT principle - Find, Assess, Create(Correct content) and Target(ed dissemination) ENSURE YOU(R) TEAM IS THE FIRST TO ALERT ECI Commission shouldn t learn of facts through Media Reports

  8. O1 MCC Violations 02 Violation of Sec. 126 of RPA, 1951 (Silence Period) 03 During elections the teams are asked to be vigilant about the following concerns Fake News 04 O5 Hate Speech Opinion Poll 06 Exit Poll

  9. Section 126 (1) (b) of RP Act prohibits display to the public any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus (includes social media) during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of the poll in a Constituency. Opinion poll is also prohibited during this silence period. Exit poll is prohibited from Commencement of poll in 1stphase till Half hour of close of poll in last phase in all States. Section 127A of RP Act - The printing and publication of election pamphlets, posters, etc. is governed by its provisions, which makes it mandatory to bear on its face the names and addresses of the printer and the publisher. Section 171 (h)- of the IPC prohibits incurring of expenditure on advertisement without the authority of the contesting candidate.

  10. Media Certification and Monitoring Committees (MCMCs) are working at District Level and State level. These MCMCs have three sets of functions Pre Certification of Political advertisement in Electronic Media (including social media) Monitoring the media violation cases during election process Monitoring and action on Paid News cases

  11. Certifying political advertisement by MCMC (as per parameters/concerns* specified) before being telecast on electronic media including television channels and cable networks, social media and bulk SMS by any contesting candidate/ registered political party or by any group of organization/association or during elections. Political Advertisements in Print Media are to be pre-certified only on pre-poll and poll day *Listed with MCMC documents with DEO/CEO office

  12. Advertisement on Cable Networks Advertisement on Radio/Private FM Channel Advertisement on TV Channels Audio Visual Displays of political advertisements/ campaign material in public places Advertisement on Social Media, Virtual Campaigns Advertisement on Cinema Halls Advertisements in e-papers of any newspapers Advertisements in newspapers on Poll & Pre-poll day Bulk SMS/Voice messages in political campaign

  13. Pre-Certification of Political Ads All political advertisements appearing in the electronic media* (includes SMPs) are required to be pre- certified by the MCMC TV/ Cable Channels Bulk SMS & Voice messages *Electronic Media E papers Audio visual display of Political advertisement/ campaign in public place Internet and Social Media websites Radio Channels Cinema Halls 13

  14. District Level MCMC pre-certifies political advertisements by Candidate. State Level MCMC ( Additional/Joint CEO level Committee) entertains the application for pre-certification received from all registered political parties with headquarters in State Capital ( Some national parties could be getting their ads pre-certified from Delhi) All grievances related to pre-certification of ads by District MCMC or State level MCMC (Additional/Joint CEO committee) rests with State level MCMC chaired by CEO.

  15. Any news or analysis appearing in any media (Print and Electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration is Paid News. Paid News seeks to circumvent election expenditure laws/ ceiling, vitiates level playing field and causes undue influence on voters; also affects their Right to Information. Paid News to be monitored from period after nominations are finalised Where PCI have not nominated a member to the District MCMC, DEO will nominate a journalist/ independent citizen to the MCMC with the approval of CEO General/Expenditure Observer shall also bring to the notice of District MCMC any cases of paid news.

  16. RO will issue notice to candidates with a copy marked to Expenditure Observer on Paid News, on recommendation of the District MCMC asking why the expenditure on the suspected case of paid news should not be shown in candidate s account District MCMC shall consider and decide on cases of paid news on reply from the candidate to the RO s notice Appeals Procedure : Appeals on decision of District MCMC on Paid News shall lie with the State MCMC. Appeals against decision of State MCMC on paid news shall lie with Commission.

  17. MCMC Committee will work in close coordination with the accounting team for computing costs and also for reflecting expenditure in Shadow Expenditure Register. In cases finally decided by District MCMC as paid news, it will inform the Expenditure Observer and Accounting team for calculating the expenditure on Paid News at DIPR rate, (in absence of DIPR rate, DAVP rate shall be used) and further necessary action. Strict timelines exist to complete the Paid news action within election process Copies of notices on Paid News (in respect of candidates not media) shall be displayed on Notice Board of RO and DEO s website. Weekly report on Paid News is to be submitted by CEO to ECI

  18. Exaggerated publicity on TV Channels owned by Political Parties/Candidates shall come under purview of paid news mechanism. Lopsided news coverage, which actually means election publicity shall be assessed based on standard rate cards of channels/ newspapers, already collected by CEOs and such notional expenditure will be booked to the candidate. Instructions provide for accounting of politically biased news, irrespective of cash or kind consideration. PCI/NBDA has issued guidelines to be observed by journalists for election reporting, the same should be widely publicized. ECI also issues a Press note on Media related matters after announcement of the elections. CEOs/DEOs have been asked to take meeting with political parties and media houses separately at their level 18

  19. 1 2 3 NOTICE: APPEAL (STATE LEVEL MCMC) APPEAL (ECI LEVEL COMMITTEE) Paid news cases are taken into account from the date of filing of nomination by the candidate (Sec77(1) of RP act 1951) If decision of District level MCMC is not acceptable to the candidate, he/she may appeal to State level MCMC within 48 hrs of receipt of decision, with information to the District MCMC. The candidate may appeal against the decision of State level MCMC to ECI Level committee within 48 hrs of receiving of order On reference from District MCMC, RO gives notice to the candidates within 96hrs. of publication/ telecast/receipt of complaint to explain why expenditure should not be added to the candidate s expenditure record. The decision of ECI shall be final. broadcast/ State level MCMC disposes of the case within 96 hrs. of receipt of the appeal District MCMC decides on the reply expeditiously and Candidate/Party its final decision. convey it to the In case no reply is received by District MCMC from the candidate within 48 hrs of serving of notice, the decision of MCMC will be final. 19

  20. Information to be given by candidates about their social media accounts at the time of filing nominations. Pre-certification of Political advertisements on social media Expenditure on campaigning through internet including social media websites. Application of MCC to content on internet including social media. MCMC committee in Districts and States have one Social Media Expert.

  21. To oversee the implementation of regulations of Election Commission of India on social media and also to report any kind of violation/ hate content/ fake content circulating on social media. CEOs/DEOs to ensure timely identification & response for fake news/misinformation campaigns Major Social media platforms- FB, Google, Twitter have appointed dedicated grievance officer to take necessary and prompt action on the complaints of ECI related to the contents published on their platforms. Expenditure incurred in virtual campaigning to be included in the expenses accounts

  22. F A C T A find, flag, track on real time basis analyse and decide next step of action C creat content...tailoring as per Requirement target dissemination of factually correct info ...depending on instance at deo/ceo/ECI level T 22

  23. In March 2019, major SMPs under aegis of IAMAI devised a VCE and committed to adhere with the same during elections for maintaining spirit of free and fair elections. Operative Part: 1. Valid legal orders wrt violations of Section 126 of RP Act 1951, will be acknowledged and /or processed within 3 hours of violations reported . A high priority reporting mechanism to ECI with appointment of a dedicated team. Nodal Officers appointed at ECI level to report violation cases to SMPs Facilitating transparency in paid political advertisement (only pre-certified ads will be shared on social media ) 2. 3. 4. 23

  24. VIOLATIONS Section 126 (1)(b) of the R. P. Act, 1951: It prohibits displaying of any election related matter by means of cinematograph, on television or similar apparatus during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for conclusion of poll for any election in the polling area VIOLATIONS Section 126A of the R. P. Act, 1951: In multiphase elections, it prohibits conduct of Exit Poll and dissemination of their results during the hour fixed for commencement of polls in the first phase and half hour after the time fixed for close of poll for the last phase in all the states. For election held in a single phase, ban on exit polls starts from the commencement of the poll and continues till half an hour after closing of the poll 24

  25. VI. CRISIS COMMUNICATION The media team at the state and district level should always be alert and ready in case of crisis. Field officers should address the local situation promptly. READY Crisis communication plays an essential part in any communication strategy. It refers to the strategies and protocols that enable an organization to effectively communicate during a major crisis or threat to an organisation s credibility or reputation. Once a crisis situation is identified, field office should keep HQ in the loop for acting immediately and actively to respond to concerns and instil confidence by providing credible information on how the situation is being tackled RESPOND After successfully handling the situation the Local teams shall focus on confidence building and building trust among all stakeholders through regular interaction with media & awareness campaigns RECOVER 25

  26. ECIs myriad means of communication (In addition to events, interpersonal, Briefings and Press conferences) Twitter Twitter YouTube Facebook Instagram website Apps Helpline 26

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  28. S Stop mis/disinformation I Investigate the source F Find Better coverage T Trace the original context 28

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