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TRAI’s new notification directs TV channels to stick to 12 minutes of ad

Broadcasters mandated to report the duration of advertisements on quarterly basis; sharp reaction from NBA

TRAI’s new notification directs TV channels to stick to 12 minutes of ad

Broadcasters mandated to report the duration of advertisements on quarterly basis; sharp reaction from NBA

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | March 25, 2013

To ensure the quality of service and protect the interests of the consumer, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has notified the “Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) (Amendment) Regulations, 2013. This regulation mandates broadcasters to restrict the duration of ads in their channels to a maximum of 12 minutes in any given clock-hour as prescribed in the existing rules.

In order to monitor and ensure compliance of these regulations, broadcasters are now mandated to report the duration of advertisements carried in their channels to TRAI on quarterly basis in a proforma prescribed by the authority.

According to the notification, TRAI has studied the issue of duration of ads being carried on TV channels. The data obtained from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and that collected from the broadcasters clearly established the general perception that most TV channels are in brazen breach of existing rules notified by the Central Government in the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.

The duration of ads being carried by TV channels is closely related to the quality of viewing experience of consumers which is akin to the quality of service being offered by service providers to the consumers.

Reacting sharply, News Broadcasters Association (NBA) issued a statement expressing deep shock over the notification. “NBA is appalled that by way of advertisement regulations, the TRAI has issued the most sweeping and intrusive controls not just regulations in relation to advertising that may be carried on TV channels,” said the statement.

According to NBA, “These regulations have been issued at a time when news channels are facing a most unfriendly business environment. Dependence on advertising remains absolute with over 90 per cent of revenues coming from it. The economic slowdown of 2008 has not been corrected even today and advertising has been slow and at unimaginably low rates. Despite Phase 1 of digitisation being implemented w.e.f. November 1, 2012, the benefits have not yet accrued to broadcasters, particularly news broadcasters. Carriage fees continue to be high and most news broadcasters do not get subscription revenues. Over the last year or so, news organisations have not received any advertising from DAVP, which has cut rates to levels 75 per cent lower than they were even five years ago.  All of these factors have ensured that most news channel companies face losses on an annual basis.”

Moreover, NBA believes that in the garb of “regulation of advertisements”, TRAI has imposed severe restrictions which amount to “control of content”. The advertisement regulations are in violation of Article 19(1) (g) of the Constitution which entitles a citizen to inter-alia carry on any trade or business.

NBA said that the regulations, if implemented, will force many news organisations to shut down. “With the general elections looming ahead it would appear that this is an attempt to muzzle the media by taking away its ability to operate independently.”

NBA has urged the government to ensure that the regulation is kept in abeyance till such time digitisation is fully implemented (with consequential benefits of no or low carriage fees and credible subscription revenue) and DAVP recommences advertising on news channels at rates which are fair and acceptable.

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