MSOs divided on Trai's ad regulation policy

MUMBAI: Trai’s ad regulation proposal has divided two of the country’s leading multi-system operators (MSOs) into opposite camps with Digicable coming out in support while Hinduja Ventures-owned operator IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd opting for a no-regulation line.

The regulator had initiated the policy to regulate ads on a clock hour basis on the premise that the country is moving towards digitisation and subscription income will become the primary source of revenue stream for broadcasters, an argument which the broadcasters have trashed outright.

However, Digicable in its response to Trai’s consultation paper ‘Issues Related to Advertisements in TV Channels’ has suggested the cap to be only 10 minutes (eight minutes for commercials and two minutes for self-promotion) instead of 12 minutes proposed by Trai for FTA channels.

For pay-channels, Digicable favours a cap of eight minutes (six minutes for commercials and two minutes for self-promotion) while it is against allowing commercials on HD channels except for two minutes in a clock hour.

“If the broadcaster agrees to have a 100 per cent advertisement free channel, then he can have total forbearance on the subscription rate charged for that channel,” Digicable said.

It also demanded that certain channels which are presently FTA in digital domain but pay in analog should be treated as pay till they have a uniform status across the country.

IIMCL, on the other hand, favoured a more open market policy where consumers must be allowed to decide whether they want an ad-free channel or a free to air channel subsidised by advertisements.

“It is up to the subscriber to opt to watch a channel with advertisements at a lower cost or pay premium to watch a channel without ads. Broadcasters on the other hand will automatically regulate the ad time as too many ad breaks will drive away subscribers, thus affecting their resources,” IIMCL said.

Both the MSOs were in agreement that in case of sporting events, advertisements should be carried only during disruptions as most of the sportscasters are pay channels with certain sports like cricket being monetised heavily.

In the case of News and Current Affairs channels, the two operators agreed on Trai’s proposal to run not more than two scrolls at the bottom of the screen and occupying not more than 10 per cent of the screen space for carrying non-commercial scrolls and tickers.

The audio level of the advertisements should also not be higher than the audio level of the programme, both Digicable and IIMCL held.

Stressing that India is not a pay market as consumers do not pay for content, Cable Operators Federation of India is of the view that the so called pay channels were introduced in India in an illegal way in the non-addressable networks by forcing cable operators to pay to receive them, once they became popular as FTA channels. For the last 18 years pay channels have been exploiting the cable operators using all unethical ways like blackmailing with threats of a black out, arbitrary increase in rates, forcing bouquets on consumers and making cartels for distribution.

Cofi wants FTA channels to get 12 minutes ads in a clock hour and pay channels not to be allowed to carry any ads as they would get 100 per cent subscription in the digital regime.

The cable association did not favour allowing ads in sports channels as they already charge the highest amount amongst all pay channels. It also agrees to permitting only full screen ads and not more than two scrolls at the bottom of a page for news and current affairs channels.

Also Read:

Trai‘s ad review policy to hurt biz models of sportscasters

News channels ask Trai to sort out carriage before capping ad time

TV networks flay Trai for ad regulation

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