MUMBAI: On the one hand, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is putting the squeeze on broadcasters. On the other, the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) is proving to be an angel in disguise all ready to provide it with some succor. At least in the area of the 12 minute cap on advertising per hour allowed on television which TRAI activated earlier this year, and which is to be implemented next month.
Reports are that the ministry is collecting data from broadcasters to ascertain the loss that they would incur on account of the TRAI-mandated ad cap. It is then expected to prepare a consultation paper within the next 10 days, say these reports.
Broadcasters – especially news broadcasters – have been yelping about how any reduction in air time would lead to a shriveling of revenues for them; in fact it might make it unviable for them to sustain their operations. Their constant wailing caught the attention of I&B minister Manish Tewari who last month requested the TRAI to post-pone the ad cap to end-2014 to coincide with the inflow of subscription revenues which are expected to accrue to broadcasters post the completion of cable TV digitisation.
The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) concurred with the news broadcasters’ appeal and put a freeze on the applicability of the ad cap, till their plea was heard on 11 November 2013. General entertainment channels have, however, agreed to comply with TRAI’s directions and have even gone ahead and reduced their commercial advertising air time.
Says a media observer: “All the players – TRAI, I&B, broadcasters – need to get together to have a road map for the reduction of the ad cap gradually and periodically over time and not in one fell swoop as TRAI has been suggesting. It’s good that the I&B ministry and TDSAT have been supporting the broadcasting sector as far as the ad cap is concerned. It is imperative for its survival.”