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Trai paper on ad time cap should have grievance redressal system

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NEW DELHI: The income a pay (encrypted) channel earns from advertisements should be linked to the subscriber income, thus making it mandatory that broadcasters earning high subscription are forced to reduce the advertisements, according to the Consumer Education and Research Society (CERS).

The CERS, a consumer rights body, has also demanded that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India should make provisions for a grievance redressal mechanism for TV viewers and the consumers of cable TV. In case a TV channel flouts the Trai norms, there must be a simple and easy- to-use mechanism to handle consumers’ complaints.

The comments of the CERS are contained in a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Advisor (B&CS) Wasi Ahmad with regard to the recent consultation paper issued by the regulator on advertisements on the electronic media.

When pointed out that the Advertising Standards Council of India has a system of monitoring advertisements, CERS chief general manager Pritee Shah told indiantelevision.com that Asci only dealt with content and not duration of ad space.

In the letter, Shah who is also Editor of ‘Insight’ said consumers would not like to compromise their TV viewing experience if they pay for the service.

While welcoming the suo motu initiative of Trai in this regard, the CERS said the proposed stipulations do not mention any norms for the local cable operators who continuously show ads in addition to regular ads shown by channels.

It said for children-specific channels and programmes, the ad duration should be further decreased from 12 minutes for free to air channel and six minutes for pay channels to six minutes for FTA channel and 3 minutes for pay channels. Advertisers target children - who are more susceptible to false and misleading claims shown in TV ads - to influence the purchasing decision of parents. In Australia, she said the restriction on ads is very stringent, where no commercial may be broadcast in the pre-school children’s classification zone. In New Zealand, TV ads are banned on Christmas day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, etc., and also advertising of unhealthy products like alcohol is banned.

Shah suggested that similarly, Trai may also curb TV ads during festivals like Diwali, Holi, Christmas, Eid and New Year. Heavy advertising during the festivals leads to over consumption and wastage of resources, which is against the principles of sustainable living, she said.

Inserting ad breaks during a live show/ programme reduces its viewing experience. Similar to sports events, advertising should only be inserted at natural breaks in programmes such as concerts and live events. She pointed out that Norway has a similar provision on ad breaks.

CERS has said the proposed stipulations under section 1.23 of the consultation paper are commendable and they should be implemented strictly. “The release of the consultation paper has not been publicised in the media. Only the Trai website visitors are aware of the document and the proposed changes in the rules for advertising on TV channels. Consumers and viewers of TV channels are the single largest stakeholder group and they must know the development. Trai should first publicise the consultation paper and the proposed stipulations through the media,” Shah said.

The efforts of Trai would make a difference if people know the new guidelines. "Once the stipulations are finalised, Trai should ensure that every TV viewer knows them, so that they can act like a watchdog,” Shah added.

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