NEW DELHI: Failing to follow the 12-minute ad cap directive laid down by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), as many as 101 general entertainment television channels and 39 news channels aired more than 12 minutes of advertisements per hour between 23 February and 1 March this year. Of these, six news channels aired more than 20 minutes of ads per hour.
Apart from these 140 channels, the other channels followed the directive of 12 minutes of ad cap per hour, according to TRAI.
The directive restricting the ad cap to 12 minutes an hour by TRAI is already under challenge in the Delhi High Court, where TRAI has given a commitment that it will not take any coercive action against the channels till the outcome of the case.
However, the channels had, after consultations with TRAI and government officials, agreed to the ad cap of 12 minutes from October 2013.
According to a chart placed on its website by TRAI, the average duration per hour of Advertisements (Commercial & Self promotional) in Pay Non-news channels during peak hours (7 - 10 pm) for the period 23 February to 1 March went up to more than 20 minutes per hour in as many as six cases.
TRAI had on 22 March, 2013 passed a regulation mandating broadcasters to restrict the duration of advertisements on their channels to a maximum of 12 minutes in any given clock-hour as prescribed in the existing rules, alleging that most TV channels are in ‘brazen breach’ of the existing rules on advertising time.
In order to monitor and ensure compliance of these regulations, broadcasters were also mandated to report the duration of advertisements carried on their channels to the TRAI on a quarterly basis in a prescribed proforma.
TRAI issued the Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, and said this was being done as the regulations set out in the Cable Television Networks Rules 1994 were being violated.
TRAI said it had studied the issue of duration of advertisements being carried in TV channels and the data obtained from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and that collected from the broadcasters before coming to its decision.
The duration of advertisements being carried in TV channels is closely related to the quality of viewing experience of the consumers, which is akin to the quality of service being offered by the service providers to the consumers, and the regulation has been issued to ensure the quality of service and protect the interests of the consumers.
The amended regulation clearly defines TRAI’s power to intervene to protect the interests of the subscribers or for ensuring compliance of the provisions of these regulations. It says that through an order of 9 January, 2004, the Central Government under Section 11(1)(d) of TRAI Act entrusted some additional functions to TRAI including the function to recommend the parameters for regulating maximum time for advertisements in pay channels as well as other channels. TRAI says the advertisements carried on by the broadcaster in their programme are a quality of service issue as they interfere with the uninterrupted broadcast of a programme and intrusion of advertisements during the telecast of a programme adversely affects the viewing experience of the consumer.
The principal regulations were issued on 14 May, 2012 but had met with severe criticism from the television channels and their representative bodies. The regulations were challenged by some of the broadcasters in the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) and thereafter TRAI issued an amended Regulation on 27 August on which responses were called for and open house consultations also held.
TRAI has also said that ‘it is important to note that the provisions in these regulations do not attempt to disturb the time limit fixed by the government regarding duration of advertisement i.e. 12 minutes per hour. As discussed earlier, TRAI is responsible to ensure that quality of service to consumer is not compromised and hence these regulations.’