Trinamul Congress MP Mahua Moitra asked the government in the Lok Sabha on Thursday to provide the media-house-wise break-up of its advertisement spend in the last five years, asserting that taxpayers needed to know how their money was being spent.
Congress House leader Adhir Chowdhury had on Wednesday accused the government of “throttling the media” by stopping advertisements to media houses that questioned the government.
On Thursday, Mahua picked up from where Adhir had left off, raising the issue through a brief mention during Zero Hour.
She quoted from a past House reply by then information and broadcasting minister Rajyavardhan Rathore to claim the government had spent “approximately Rs 5,246 crore in advertising” from 2014 till December 2018.
“We want to know what is the break-up of the ad spend via media houses and if certain print media (organisations) are being excluded. This is very important,” Mahua said.
There was no reply from the government as it is not mandatory for it to respond to Zero Hour mentions by members.
Mahua stressed that the figure of Rs 5,246 crore signified “only the central government’s expenditure”.
“It does not include public sector undertaking expenditure which, I believe, forms the bulk of it. Given that this is taxpayers’ money and what the PSUs are spending is also taxpayers’ money, we need to have a better idea what the total advertising spending is,” the newly elected MP said.
At one point, she said: “Five of the largest news media organisations in this country are either owned (by) or (are) indirectly indebted to one person. He is the richest Indian. He is an associate who is on the board of the largest telecom venture. News Nation, India TV, News 24, Network 18, NDTV are all owned….”
Her last few words were drowned out in an uproar. At this point the Speaker called the next member.