Ad Cap: Broadcasters buoyed by Arun Jaitley's comment

MUMBAI: While delivering speech at the first Justice J. S Verma Memorial lecture Information and Broadcasting Minster of India Arun Jaitley opposed the concept of Ad Cap in channels. He termed this concept as a contradiction to the Article 19 (i) A of Indian constitution. 

Jaitley had said, “With the growth of digital platforms, news channels are going to find it immensely difficult to survive. The definition of news has changed; it was accuracy then and spontaneity now.” 

With this Jaitley stressed on the fact that as news is now immediately available on the digital platforms, lesser people will tune into the television for the same.

NDTV executive vice-chairperson KVL Narayan Rao said, “If this development turns real it will put an end to the lengthy sustaining debate. We will be extremely delighted and grateful to the government as we have been campaigning for this since a long time now. It will strengthen the development and bring a balance as the distribution charge is very high and the major source of revenue is advertisement.”

The Minister, during his speech also noted how distribution costs were “phenomenally high.” He was of the opinion that low revenues in the media industry is a threat as it leaves direct effect on quality in terms of news gathering and reporting. “Low revenue will result in numerous amalgamations and takeovers,” Jaitley had said.

Speaking to on Jaitley’s remark on Ad Cap, Multi Screen Media president Rohit Gupta said, “We were never in favour of ad cap and see this comment of the Minister as a positive step. This will enable us to develop and hence I appreciate and welcome the statement.”

The I&B Minster had also mentioned that many a times he come across speeches that he actually never delivered. According to him, these things happened due to two reasons: 1) Misinterpretation by the reporter in charge, and (2) In order to generate more TRP both are directly proportional to revenue. “If adequate revenue is generated then companies will have better reporters and there will be less thrive for TRP and hence the final product will be more credible,” he said.

Appreciation also came from India TV editor in chief and chairman and News Broadcaster's Association president Rajat Sharma. "News broadcasters have been raising this issue for more than a year now, I am happy that Arun Jaitley has understood the problem. He has realised that ad cap will make news channels unviable but more important is the minister's view that the ad cap is against freedom of expression provided in the Constitution of India."

Focus News managing editor Shailesh Kumar termed it as a move in the right direction. He said “If the remark of I&B Minister on Ad Cap turns into a decision, it will be a blessing for the channels. Most of the channels are going through a tough time and need to generate more revenue.”

On the other hand, Zeel MD and CEO Punit Goenka was of a slightly different opinion. While speaking to, Goenka said, “It is a good move for news and music channels.” Separating his channel from the others, he further added, “Zee will continue to follow the ad cap. The ministry comes up with such statements and many fall for the trap.” 

Jaitley concluded his speech by saying, “It will be music to Rajat (Sharma) and other media person’s ear on hearing this view from me. My I&B Ministry, a couple of years ago came out with a statutory amendment to law saying no channel will telecast advertising beyond so many minutes, since then I am struggling in my own mind as how this meets the challenge of Article 19 (i) A (of Indian Constitution). Is the government suppose to say how much news and how much advertisement or it should be viewers prerogative to switch when it turns monotonous.”  

The controversial law was invoked by the Authority in May 2012 and it was disputed by television broadcasters, who had also challenged the jurisdiction of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in this regard before the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The News Broadcaster’s Association (NBA) along with others had challenged the ad cap rule, contending that TRAI does not have jurisdiction to regulate commercial air time on television channels. The Delhi High Court panel led by Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai adjourned the petition till 24 March, 2015. 

Meanwhile TRAI gave assurance of taking no action against any channel till the matter is resolved in court. The regulator's instance, directed all channels to keep a record of the advertisements run by them. It can be noted that the ad cap case was adjourned to 21 January, 2015 when it last came up for hearing on 20 November, 2014.

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