Trai willing to discuss with broadcasters on TV ad time issue

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, whose diktat about television advertisements was challenged by broadcasters, says it is prepared to discuss the issue with organisations of the broadcasters.

This was stated today by its counsel Saket Singh when a petition by News Broadcasters Association and others challenging Trai’s ad regulations came up before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat).

Counsel said Trai was willing to look into various issues raised by the broadcasters which have opposed the move to put a cap on advertising time.

"There are issues we are willing to consider. We are looking in a broad manner," said the counsel. He said amendments can be made, whatever the issue.

Trai was granted its request for six months for this process by chairman Justice S B Sinha and member P K Rastogi.

Trai assured Tdsat that it would not implement its order and enforce the broadcasters to follow it till 30 August when the matter comes up for hearing.

Trai had issued a notification on 14 May limiting the duration of advertisements in TV channels to 12 minutes per hour. Any shortfall of advertisement duration in any hour cannot be carried over, the telecom regulator had said.

Trai in its regulation had also said that the minimum time gap between any two consecutive advertisement breaks should not be less than 15 minutes and not less than 30 minutes for movies.

However, Trai today also faced questions from the bench over the overlapping of its authority with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

"A jurisdiction issue cannot be decided by a statutory authority (Trai)," the tribunal pointed out.

Broadcasters, in their petition filed before Tdsat have questioned the powers of Trai contending that the sectoral regulator has no power to limit the ad times.

According to the broadcasters, such power vests with the Central government and that only it can issue such directions under The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

They further claimed that the present Trai Act, 1997, authorises the regulator to make only recommendations. "The authority has exceeded the mandate given to it by the Central government and instead of making recommendations to the government, proceeded with the formulation of the regulation," one of the broadcasters in its petition submitted before the Tdsat.

Moreover, by the said regulation, Trai has sought to regulate not only the parameters within which the ads would be carried by the broadcasters on their respective TV channels, but also determined the format, nature and duration of the ads to be carried on TV, the broadcaster said.

"The authority has very ingeniously sought to disguise content regulation as Standards of Quality of Service, which it is not entitled to do," said the petition.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), News Broadcasters Association (NBA), and several channels had approached Tdsat against the Trai directive. On 12 June, Tdsat had issued a notice, asking Trai to file reply within three weeks. It also gave two weeks time to IBF and other broadcasters to file rejoinders over Trai‘s reply.

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