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Trai reviews ad time policy for TV channels

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NEW DELHI: In what can possibly upset business models of TV networks and negatively impact genres like news, movies and sports, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is reviewing the advertisement duration policy for television channels.

The sector regulator has sought the views of stakeholders on prescribing an upper limit for the duration of advertisements on clock hour basis and defining time gaps between consecutive ad breaks during telecast of movies and other programmes.

In a consultation paper on "Issues Related to Advertisements in TV Channels", Trai has also sought views on different maximum limits for the duration of ads in free-to-air (FTA) and pay channels in a clock hour bais.

The paper has been issued suo motu with the primary objective of striking a balance between giving consumers a good TV viewing experience, and protecting the interests of all the stakeholders of the television industry.

Trai proposes to limit the duration of the ads on a clock hour basis. No FTA channel should carry ads exceeding 12 minutes in an hour. For pay channels, this limit should be six minutes, according to Trai‘s proposition for which it wants to take the views of the stakeholders before framing out its recommendations.

The 12 minutes of ads should not be in more than 4 sessions in one hour, Trai feels. In other words, there should be continuous airing of the TV show for at least 12 minutes each. Not more than three ad breaks should be allowed during telecast of a movie with the minimum gap of 30 minutes between consecutive ad breaks.

In case of sporting events being telecast live, the regulator feels the ads should only be carried during the interruptions in the sporting action – for example, half time in football or hockey match, lunch/ drinks break in cricket matches, game/set change in case of lawn tennis etc.

What can adversely affect the sports genre most is that Trai is also in favour of allowing only full screen ads. In its view, part screen ads should not be permitted. Drop down ads should also not be permitted, Trai feels.

As far as News and Current Affairs channels are concerned, they should be allowed 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, tickers etc.

The audio level of the ads should not be higher than the audio level of the programme.

At the outset, Trai has said that ad income contributes substantially to the overall TV revenue pie. This had led to the tendency of pushing more and more ads on pay and FTA channels.

The increasing duration and distracting formats of ads has, however, adversely affected the consumers’ viewing experience. This has been reflected in numerous consumer complaints and opinions being expressed at various forums.

Written comments on the issues raised in this consultation paper are invited from the stakeholders by 27 March and counter-comments by 2 April. Based on that, Trai will come out with its recommendations.

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