Electoral Reforms In India

EC to issue Online Airtime Vouchers for Campaigning


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Airtime Vouchers for Campaigning

Mains level: Not Much


Central Idea

  • The Election Commission of India has implemented a fully online process for allotting airtime to political parties for campaigning on Akashvani and Doordarshan.
  • The new system replaces the traditional method of collecting physical vouchers and instead issues digital time vouchers through an online platform.

Airtime Vouchers for Campaigning

  • Objective: To provide equitable access to government-owned electronic media during elections for campaigning purposes.
  • Legal basis: The allotment of time on public broadcasters during campaigning is governed by a scheme notified in January 1998, based on Section 39A of the Representation of People Act, 1951.
  • Allotment Criteria: Each National party and recognized State party receive an equitable base time on Doordarshan (DD) and Akashvani.
  • Scope for additional time: Factors such as past electoral performance, representation in the legislature, and the number of candidates fielded by the party are considered to ensure equitable distribution of airtime.
  • Predefined Schedule: The date and time for telecasts and broadcasts by authorized party representatives are predetermined by Prasar Bharati, in consultation with EC and in the presence of party representatives.

Regulation of these Vouchers

  • Scrutiny of Party Transcripts: Party transcripts undergo scrutiny to ensure compliance with relevant codes. These codes prohibit content that criticizes other countries, attacks religions or communities, incites violence, or engages in personal attacks.
  • Role of Apex Committee: Disagreements over vetted content are referred to an Apex Committee comprising members from Akashvani and DD. The committee’s decision is final.

Significance of Digital Vouchers

  • Process Improvement: The decision reflects its commitment to leveraging technology for an improved electoral process and enhanced convenience for all stakeholders.
  • Eliminating Physical Collection: Political parties will no longer need to send representatives to the commission’s offices to collect time vouchers during elections.

Operational Challenges

  • Limited Access: The scheme is exclusively available to national and recognized State parties, leading to concerns about its true equity.
  • Conflict of Interest in the Apex Committee: The Apex Committee consists of officials from Akashvani and DD, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
  • Row over transcript content: These officials are expected to review their own decisions when conflicts arise with political parties over the transcript content.

Also read:

How is a ‘National Party’ in India defined?

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