Hyderabad: Ministry of Communication on Thursday said that they would consider removing the pre-call COVID message (COVID public service announcement before the call) at an appropriate time.
Replying to questions by YSRCP MP in Rajya Sabha Prabhakar Reddy Vemireddy, Minister of State for Communication Sanjay Dhotre said that TRAI has received few complaints/representations against these messages. However, TRAI has stated that the pre-call announcement has been made in the public interest.
Dhotre added that the outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019 took the world by surprise. The people across the country had to be reached out immediately with messages of Do's and Don'ts to enable breaking the chain of transmission.
"The idea of leveraging pre-caller tunes for maximum outreach at the shortest possible time was conceived at the time of the outbreak of COVID-19, keeping in view the larger public interest. The message disseminated via the caller tune has changed several times since the outbreak depending upon the changed circumstances and requirements from time to time," said the minister.
Minister also asserted that the pre-caller tune has played a critical role in reaching important messages timely across the length and breadth of the country. "These messages have also included information regarding the National Helpline Numbers (1075) and on the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare website to promote health-seeking behavior. As such it is considered indispensable in the fight against COVID-19," said the minister.
It should be recalled that the COVID public service announcement voiced by Amitabh Bachchan ringing out before phone calls connect is being replaced with a new one starting January 14. It follows public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court last month asking the tune to be dropped.
In his petition, a Delhi resident said the government engaged and retained Bachchan to spread awareness about the preventive measures to fight the COVID-19 even though the superstar himself, as well as other members of his family, had been infected.
The petitioner requested the court to direct the government to have the announcement replaced by famous coronavirus warriors who were willing to give their services for free.
Before Bachchan, the COVID caller tune introduced last year had featured a voiceover artist Jasleen Bhalla. Before that, in March, the government had made telecom operators carry an even more contentious caller tune that began with the sound of a cough, alarming many callers. It was replaced soon after.