TRAI notifies duration of ads on TV channels

25 Mar,2013

By A Correspondent


The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has notified the regulation “Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) (Amendment) Regulations, 2013. This regulation mandates the broadcasters to restrict the duration of advertisements 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 with these regulations, broadcasters are now also mandated to report the duration of advertisements carried in their channels to the Authority on quarterly basis in a proforma prescribed by the Authority.


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


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


Also, according to the Regulation, every broadcaster shall, within fifteen days from the end of a quarter, submit to the Authority, in the format specified by it by order, the details of advertisements carried on its channel.


The Authority has noted that the duration and format of advertisements, being carried in TV channels are generally, not in accordance with the provisions of the advertising code as prescribed in the CTNR, 1994. Therefore, with the primary objective of striking a balance between giving a consumer a good TV viewing experience and protecting the commercial interests of broadcasters, after following the due consultation process, TRAI notified the “Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Regulations” dated 14th May 2012. These regulations, besides prescribing that the limit of advertisement duration should be adhered to on clock hour basis, also provided that (i) advertisements should be carried only during breaks in live sporting action (ii) time gap between consecutive advertisement sessions should be of minimum 30 minutes in case of movies and 15 minutes otherwise (iii) no part screen advertisements should be permitted etc.


The regulations were challenged by some of the broadcasters in the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). The broadcasters had challenged the said regulations, inter alia mainly on the following grounds: (a) regulation on advertising time and its corresponding effect on the broadcaster’s revenues would adversely affect the growth and competition in the broadcasting industry (b) Sports channels, by very nature of the business, stand on a different footing as compared to other genres because of the reasons such as periodic availability of content, limited shelf life and mandatory sharing with Prasar Bharati. Also, the content is obtained at huge cost and with very stringent conditions which strictly regulate how the events would be broadcast with specified timelines allotted to advertisements.


In order to minimize other breaks during certain live sporting events, in which natural breaks either occur after relatively long periods or there are no natural breaks such as F1 races, part screen advertisements should be allowed (c) the “part screen” and “drop down” advertisements are integral forms of advertising and (d) statutory rules already exist under the Cable TV Act to regulate the format and duration of advertisements that may be carried on television channels and the regulations are beyond the purview of TRAI and in conflict with the provisions of rule 7 of the CTNR 1994.


Meanwhile, the New Broadcasters Association (NBA) has expressed “deep shock and concern” on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) notification and 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. 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 percent of revenues coming from it. The NBA has urged the government to ensure that the said regulation is kept in abeyance till such time digitization is fully implemented in the country (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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