Postpone 12-minute ad cap deadline to Dec 2014: I&B minister Manish Tewari

MUMBAI: He could well be labeled the messiah of the broadcasting industry if his suggestion is heeded. Minister of Information & Broadcasting Manish Tewari has recommended that the 12 minute per clock hour advertising cap deadline be moved ahead to December 2014 from 1 October 2013 suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. (TRAI)

“The final phase of India’s cable TV digitization is likely to be over by September 2014,” he is reported to have said. “And the broadcast industry would be in a position to generate a substantial dividend from the digitized cable TV ecosystem which could well compensate them for the loss of air time revenues on account of the reduction in advertising air time. We, at the I&B, have hence suggested to the TRAI that ad air time reduction should follow the completion of digitization.”

TRAI had in May 2013 mandated that general entertainment TV channels (GECs) and news TV channels should reduce their advertising air time per hour to 16 minutes and 20 minutes respectively from 1 July 2013 and to 12 minutes by 1 October 2013. The reason: GECs were booking and telecasting around 18-20 of ads per hour while for news channels the figure was 25-30 minutes. The advertising clutter was resulting in a poor viewing experience for TV watchers; hence TRAI had ordered the broadcast ecosystem to cut back around a year ago, but had delayed enacting the order until to May 2013.

Broadcasters – specially news TV channels - had immediately protested this move, saying it could impact their financial viability. The news channels had also asked the Telecom Disputes Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to intervene a month or so ago after the headless body found itself a chief.

However, both GECs and news channels had - for the large part - complied with the TRAI ad cap mandate and reduced their air time to 16 minutes and 20 minutes from 1 July 2013. The major Indian GECs had managed to increase their advertising air-time rates between 12-30 per cent, but news channels have said this has been difficult for them. They have also complained that high cable TV carriage fees have been a drain on their resources.

The ball is now in TRAI’s court. Will it concur with the minister and his ministry’s recommendation? Will it do so for only the news TV channels or for all genres? Will the other genres of TV channels accept the largesse being doled out to the news channels alone? Will they also join the chorus and implore the government to help them out too? Questions that beg answers!

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