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Trai issues notice to broadcasters to implement ad cap

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NEW DELHI: Even as it has sought clarity from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on its powers in acting against violators, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued notices to broadcasters to adhere to the 10+2 ad cap fixed by it in May last year.

And even as broadcasters are unsure of Trai’s powers in implementing these regulations, the Authority has asked all broadcasters to give reasons by 10 March for not implementing the ad cap limit.

Trai had stated that no broadcaster shall carry advertisements exceeding 12 minutes in a clock hour in a programme. The clock hour commences at 00.00 of the hour and ends at 00.60. Any shortfall of advertisement duration in a clock hour shall not be carried over. Advertisements included not only the commercials, but also the channel’s own promotions for its shows or for the channel per se.

Broadcaster bodies had at that time opposed the suggestions citing ground realties in implementing them and the fact that the duration and number of ad breaks should be decided by market forces and not by regulating authorities. It is also felt by the broadcasters that this will hit their annual balance sheets.

Broadcasters bodies Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and News Broadcasters Association (NBA) have been asked by the broadcasters to take a call on the issue as enforcement of the Trai rules may affect their viewership as well as their earnings, particularly in a scenario where the channels are still dependent more on commercial revenues than on subscriptions.

A consultation paper in March 2012 had stated that there was a precedence of a Supreme Court ruling which had held that the restriction on advertising space in newspapers would lead to reduction in their revenues which was in violation of Article 19 (1)(a). The same rule should also apply to television.

It was stated that the regulation also contradicts Trai’s own ruling of 2004, which had stated that there should be no regulation on advertisements – both on free to air and pay channels.

Trai, upset over inaction on complaints against broadcasters, had asked the Ministry earlier this month to clarify if it is empowered to enforce rules on duration and format of TV advertisements if it wants to avoid possible “embarrassment” and litigation.

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