Trai not to implement ad regulations till further orders from Tdsat

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (Tdsat) has directed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to hold on to its commitment of not implementing regulation of advertisement on television channels till its further orders.

The commitment that the Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Regulations, 2012 dated 14 May 2012 will not be implemented till 30 August was given by Trai during a Tdsat hearing on July 17.

Broadcasters had moved Tdsat challenging the authority of Trai to implement the provision in the Cable Act that restricts the total advertisements in an hour to 12 minutes.

Trai will not take steps to implement the regulations on advertisement limit till the next hearing. Tdsat chairman S B Sinha and member P K Rastogi have listed for further hearing on 3 December the petitions filed by broadcasters and organisations against ad regulations.

Tdsat gave its directive after Trai Counsel Saket Singh gave an assurance that the regulator was prepared to discuss the issue with broadcasters and other stakeholders. Singh also pointed out that Trai had, in fact asked all stakeholders to respond by 11 September to amendments proposed in the draft regulation “Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) (Amendment) Regulations, 2012”. The draft amendment was released on 27 August.

The petitioners have questioned the powers of Trai contending that the regulator has no power to limit the ad times. According to the broadcasters, such power vests with the central government and that only it can issue such directions under The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

The Tribunal was hearing different petitions by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, the News Broadcasters Association,. ESPN Software India Pvt. Ltd., Multi Screen India Pvt. Ltd., Neo Sports Broadcast Pvt. Ltd., and Discovery Communication India which had been clubbed together.

Some of the petitions had been filed when the first Regulations were issued on 14 May while those affecting sports channels were filed following the amended draft issued on 27 August.

Counsel A J Bhambani who represented some of the petitioners in the appeal challenging the Trai Regulations said the regulator should not have issued any amended regulations in view of its assurance to the tribunal in July that it would not implement its regulation till 30 August.

Singh said Trai had only issued draft Regulations as part of the consultation process and had no intention of enforcing it till all the stakeholders had been heard.

Trai had first issued a notification on 14 May limiting the duration of advertisements in TV channels to 12 minutes per hour. Any shortfall of advertisement duration in any hour cannot be carried over, the telecom regulator had said. Trai in its regulation had also said that the minimum time gap between any two consecutive advertisement breaks should not be less than 15 minutes and not less than 30 minutes for movies.

Trai in its draft amendment of 27 August has proposed to withdraw the requirement of a 15-minute gap between ad breaks, while sticking to the overall ad time of 12 minutes per hour. For sports broadcasters, Trai has proposed to remove the clause that permitted ads only during breaks in case of live broadcast of a sporting event.

Also read:

Broadcasters get breathing space as Tdsat stays Trai‘s ad cap rule
Trai willing to discuss with broadcasters on TV ad time issue

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