Mumbai: The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), a representative body of news and non-news channels, is planning to challenge the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) diktat to limit advertising to 12 minutes per hour.
“The IBF will file a petition in TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal) this week,” IBF secretary Naresh Chahal said. “We are also questioning the role of Trai, which is primarily that of an adviser but has been issuing regulations, which do not come under its purview.”
He added that news and sports channels that have been specifically affected by Trai’s ad regulation will also take up the issue with TDSAT.
Rahul Khullar, chairman, Trai
Annie Joseph, secretary general, News Broadcasters Association (NBA), said, “Our board will meet on Wednesday, following which we will take a call.”
Trai issued a regulation capping commercial breaks at 12 minutes per hour of programming, including a channel’s in-house promotion time, under the Standards of Quality of Service Regulations, 2012, on 14 May.
The regulations, according to Trai, will be effective from the date of their publication in the official gazette.
The regulator also specified that the gap between two commercial breaks should be 15 minutes for an hour-long programme. While showing a feature film, the gap would have to be 30 minutes.
For sports channels, “The advertisements during live broadcast of a sporting event should be only during the breaks in the sporting action.”
An executive at a leading sports channel, who did not want to be named, said, “Trai has capped advertising and also limited how we should price our channel. So, when both sources of revenue—subscription and advertising—are controlled, how will our channels survive?”
The move will hit revenue of news and sports channels, said industry experts.
Mint’s Aminah Sheikh says the Indian Broadcasting Foundation plans to challenge a Trai norm that limits advertising to 12 minutes per hour.
“We firmly believe that Trai has no jurisdiction on the matter. The amount of free commercial time or inventory to be used should be determined by the channels, as they understand what is the best interface to reach out to audiences,” said Sunil Lulla, managing director and chief executive officer of Times Television Network, which runs the Times Now and ET Now channels.
Also banned are partial-screen and drop-down ads. Only ads that occupy the full screen will be allowed.
“By banning part-screen and drop-down advertising, Trai is curbing the freedom of channels to interact with the viewers in a manner, which the channels feel is an effective tool. The broadcasters’ industry has always functioned on a self-regulatory basis and should be allowed to continue in the same manner,” he said.
The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act provides for an advertising limit of 12 minutes per hour.