Ban on surrogate ads on DD to stay, government says

Information and Broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj has ruled out any change in the prevailing policy of pubcaster Doordarshan being barred from airing surrogate liquor and tobacco advertising.

The status quo situation does not augur well for the producers, affiliated to Doordarshan, who have been hard pressed to find sponsors in a shrinking advertising market in the face of increased competition from the private satellite channels.

Clarifying a point raised in the Rajya Sabha by Rajeev Shukla, a member of the Parliament elected from Uttar Pradesh on the ABLC ticket, Swaraj said, "The government cannot allow DD to air surrogate advertisements at any cost. Even if that means loss of revenue, as has been pointed out ."

According to Swaraj, the existing programming code doesn't permit TV channels, including DD, to air surrogate liquor or tobacco ads. She added that a panel which was looking into this issue had been sending "notices to various channels" and had managed to curb the menace of surrogate ads on TV channels substantially.

"DD cannot be allowed to air such ads and if other satellite channels are still doing so, we'll bring them in line with our programming code," the minister said.

Shukla, a former print medium journalist and a TV anchor for serials like Zee's Ru-ba-ru, had mentioned during the CAS debate that there was no justification for not allowing DD to air surrogate liquor ads, after putting in a statutory warning, when the satellite channels were doing so.

"Why should DD suffer on revenue front if the law is not uniform?" he had argued. But Swaraj would have nothing of that.

When Shukla raised the issue of channels vying for the huge advertising pie based on TRPs, Swaraj quipped that the implementation of CAS would solve such problems.

"After CAS is implemented, broadcasters will know exactly how many homes are receiving which channels (if the channels are pay-per-view) and it would be a sure indicator of a channel's or a programme's popularity," Swaraj explained. 

She also added that the CAS figures would also help advertisers who would get authentic figures instead of those bandied around by broadcasters.

So it looks like DD will have to live with Dry Days at least for a while.

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