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137 GEC and news pay channels violated ad cap rule in second quarter

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NEW DELHI: Even as the ad cap case drags on with the government failing to take a firm stand either way, a total of 137 pay channels including 25 news and current affairs channels continued to violate the regulations for telecasting a maximum of 12 minutes of commercials per hour in the second quarter of the year.

The report released today by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for the period from 28 March to 2 June 2016 shows that the number of violators has remained almost the same as in the first quarter when the total was 133 between 28 December and 27 March.

While there has been a very miniscule fall in the violators among news channels from 30 to 25, there is an increase in non-news channels from 103 as on 27 March to 112 as on 26 June.

The average duration per hour of advertisements (commercial and self promotional) during peak hours (7pm‐10 PM) in pay news channels for the period 28 March to 26 June shows that the highest of these was by 21.95 minutes by ETV Rajasthan and the lowest was 12.01 minutes by Zee Telugu. Interestingly, the highest in the first quarter was also by ETV Rajasthan with 24.83 minutes. Times Now which had been at the bottom with 12.15 minutes in the first quarter does not even figure in the list of violators in the second quarter.

Among pay non-news channels (general entertainment channels) for the same period, the highest was 24.54 minutes by B4U Movies (which had topped the list in the first quarter with 23.41 minutes and was also at the top in December last year) and the lowest was 12.03 minutes by Raj Digital Plus. Odisha TV’s Tarang which had been at the bottom in the first quarter increased its ad time to 12.22 minutes.

There are at least 16 news and 30 non-news channels clocking more than 15 minutes per hour. While the number of news channels was the same in the first quarter, the number of GECs has risen from 24.

TRAI has made it clear that "the information is based on the data submitted by the broadcasters and TRAI bears no responsibility for correctness. 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)."

Asking TRAI not to take any coercive action against any channel pending hearing of the case in the first hearing over 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 2015 that it was discussing the issue with broadcasters, the matter was put off several times. 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 DPOs. 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.”

In the petition, the news channels made 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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