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Trai caps TV ad breaks at 12 minutes per hour

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NEW DELHI: In a move that is set to upset the business models of the broadcasters, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has capped the duration of advertisements in television channels at 12 minutes per clock hour.

“Any shortfall of ad duration in any clock hour cannot be carried over,” Trai said in its latest regulations on standards of quality of service for TV channels issued today.

The minimum time gap between two consecutive advertisement breaks should not be less than 15 minutes. In the case of movies, this should be a minimum of 30 minutes.

Sports broadcasters to feel the pinch

The conditions shall not apply in case of ads during live broadcast of a sporting event.

"The advertisements during live broadcast of a sporting event should be only during the breaks in the sporting action," the broadcast sector regulator said. This is sure to upset sports broadcasters.

No part-screen and drop-down ads

There is another regulation that is sure to hurt news and sports broadcasters, while pleasing TV viewers. Trai has said part-screen and drop-down advertisements shall not be permitted and they have to be full screen.

Broadcasters will also have to ensure that the audio level of ads cannot be higher than the audio level of the programme being telecast. Advertisers, thus, can’t try to use a higher sound level to grab the attention of the viewer.

The advertisements in the clock hour will include all types of advertisements including advertisements promoting the channel(s) of the broadcaster.

The “Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Regulations 2012, issued today, will be effective from the date of their publication in the Official Gazette.

Trai‘s explanation

In an explanatory memorandum, Trai has observed that the duration of advertisements, their placement within or in-between the programmes and their frequency of occurrence, is closely related to the quality of viewing experience of the consumers. The quality of viewing experience of the consumers is akin to the quality of service provided by the service providers to the consumers.

The broadcast watchdog said: “Since the dawn of the television, advertisements have been used to promote a wide variety of goods and services. Advertisements provide for a significant portion of the revenue of the television industry. The broadcasters of the free to air channels rely solely on the advertisements as their source of revenue, while the pay channel broadcasters have twofold source of revenue in the form of advertisement and subscription revenues.”

Trai said that the consumers are “presently fed with content feeds interlaced with the advertisements within and in-between the various programmes aired by the broadcasters in their channels as well as MSOs and local cable operators in their local/video channels. The majority of television advertisements consist of advertising spots, info-commercials and self-promotional campaign in various formats ranging in length from a few seconds to several minutes.”

The present provisions concerning the duration and format of advertisements in the TV channels according to the Cable Television Networks Rules 1994, prescribe that no programme shall carry advertisements exceeding 12 minutes per hour, which may include up to 10 minutes per hour of commercial advertisements, and up to 2 minutes per hour of a channel’s self-promotional programmes. It is also provided that all advertisement should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme viz., use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme.

Trai said there have been several complaints, mainly from the consumers raised at various forums regarding overplaying of advertisements, long duration of advertisements, overlaying of advertisements on the screen, increased audio level during advertisements etc. It has been said that the advertisement duration and formats are not in accordance with the provisions stated above. It has often been pointed out that the advertisements are played/repeated several times in between the programmes, which break the continuity of the programme and often done at crucial stages of a programme. In this context, there have been requests to at least restrict and regulate the duration, frequency and timings of the advertisements.

The Regulations have been issued with the primary objective of striking a balance between giving a consumer a good TV viewing experience, and protecting the commercial interests of broadcasters and is based on the reactions to a consultation paper issued on 16 March 2012 titled “Issues related to Advertisements in TV channels”.

In response to this consultation paper, 29 comments were received. Based on the comments and views of the stakeholders and analysis of various aspects, facts and available studies, the Authority has decided to issue separate regulations for the duration of advertisements carried in TV channels.

The Memorandum notes that the broadcasters and their associations, and the advertisers and their associations are against any regulation as proposed by Trai. But the other stakeholders comprising mainly the consumers, consumer organisations and cable operators had supported the Trai proposal for the regulation of duration and format of advertisements in the TV channels.

Trai said it had taken note of the charge that it was the wrong time to regulate the advertisements since the digitization has just started; that advertisements were part of a business model of the broadcasters and should not be seen as a burden to the consumers and were in fact helpful to the consumers; a system of self regulation by the industry body is a better and appropriate way to regulate the advertisements; and the reference to some Supreme Court judgments which had said the restriction on advertisement space in the newspapers would lead to reduction in its revenue which is in violation of Article 19(1)(a) and consumer interest cannot be the only relevant factor for framing a regulation.

Indiantelevision.com had earlier reported the views of the various stakeholders. The broadcasters had opposed the move while consumers bodies were in support.

Also Read:

TV networks flay Trai for ad regulation

Trai‘s ad review policy to hurt biz models of sportscasters

News channels ask Trai to sort out carriage before capping ad time

MSOs divided on Trai‘s ad regulation policy

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