New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Friday notified regulations afresh restricting advertising time on television channels to 12 minutes per hour, unleashing a storm of protest by broadcasters who said the curb would hurt them economically.
The regulator said in a release that the channels will now have to inform it of the volume of advertising they carry on a quarterly basis following the notification of the Standard of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Amendment Regulations, 2013.
News broadcasters condemned the move.
“It’s an extremely draconian step. It ignores the reality on the ground. News channels don’t have any alternate source of revenue. Markets are depressed and the carriage cost is still high,” said K.V.L. Narayan Rao, president of News Broadcasters’ Association and NDTV group executive vice-chairperson.
“If the regulator implements the restriction overnight, it will kill the industry,” said Raj Nayak, chief executive of Colors, the Hindi general entertainment channel from Viacom18.
Trai had originally notified similar regulations in May last year following complaints from viewers about excessively long advertising breaks.
The move was challenged in the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) by the broadcasters who questioned Trai’s jurisdiction. The matter has been pending in TDSAT for the last six months during which Trai held several rounds of consultations with stakeholders before issuing a revised notification on Friday, although the previous matter is still pending.
The tribunal hadn’t restrained the regulator from issuing an amended notification, a Trai official said on condition of anonymity. He said the new notification renders the earlier one “infructuous”.
“We had assured the court that we will look into the matter. We understand that the duration of advertising on television channels affects the quality of viewing experience of the consumer,” the person said. “Unfortunately, broadcasters have been brazenly breaching even the Cable Television Networks Rules that also allow only 12 minutes of advertising per hour.”
Currently, some television channels show advertisements for as much as 30 minutes per hour, the Trai official said.