133 news and non-news pay channels violated adcap rule in 1st quarter

NEW DELHI: While the adcap case continues to drag with no sign of an early hearing, a study shows that a total of 133 pay channels including 30 news and current affairs channels continue to violate the regulations for telecasting a maximum of twelve minutes of advertisements and commercials per hour.

The report released today by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for the period from 28 December to 27 March shows that the number of violators has come down marginally from 149 during the three months ending 27 December.

While there has been a very miniscule increase in the violators among news channels from 28 top 30, there is a sharp fall in non-news channels from 121 to 103 as on 27 March.

Average duration per hour of Advertisements (commercial and self promotional) during peak hours (7pm ‐ 10 PM) in Pay News Channels for the period 28 December to 27 March shows that the highest of these was 24.83 minutes by ETV Rajasthan and the lowest was 12.15 minutes by Times Now.

Among pay non-news channels for the same period, the highest was 23.41 minutes by B4U Movies (which had topped the list in December last year as well) and the lowest was 12.04 by Odiosha TV’s Tarang.

There are at least sixteen news and 24 non-news channels clocking more than fifteen minutes per hour.

TRAI has made it clear that 'the information is based on the data submitted by the broadcasters and TRAI bears no responsibility for correctness of same. As per information available with TRAI, the rest of the Pay News and non-news channels are carrying less than 12 minutes of average duration per hour of advertisements (Commercial & Self promotional) during peak hours (7PM - 10 pm)'.

While asking TRAI not to take any coercive action against any channel pending hearing of the case in the first hearing almost two years earlier, the Delhi High Court had asked all channels and TRAI to keep a record of the advertising time consumed including commercials.

The petition had been filed by the News Broadcasters Association and some channels challenging the TRAI decision to implement the directive of 12 minutes contained in the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry and TRAI are the respondents in the petition.

After the Information and Broadcasting Ministry told the Court on 27 November that it was discussing the issue with broadcasters, the matter was put off to 11 February and then to 29 March. In the 11 February hearing, Discovery Communications moved for intervention while Home Cable sought early hearing.

In its intervention MSO Home Cable Network (P) Ltd said it wanted to intervene as it was directly affected by the outcome of the present petition. It wanted the NBA petition to be dismissed and added: “The Pay channel broadcasters are profiteering at the expense of subscribers and the DPO’s. There is no justification for changing monthly subscription when commercial advertisements are inserted. The Standards of Quality of Service (Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems) Regulations 2012 (with Amendments thereafter) is justified to the extent they are applicable to Pay Channels. The pay channel broadcasters cannot charge the subscription fee while inserting commercials into the content or in the alternative, the subscribers have to be compensated for the revenue earned on the basis of their being subscribers of the channels.”

Interestingly, I and B Minister Arun Jaitley had in January last year said that he was in favour of any ad cap in the print or electronic media.

In the petition, the news channels have taken the plea that most of them are free to air and therefore do not get any subscription fee from the viewers as the GEC channels do.

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