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Trai softens stance on TV ad 'diktat', to meet TV channels about ad timings

Mail Today Bureau     July 18, 2012
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Tuesday told the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Administrative Tribunal (TDSAT) that it is ready to hold discussions with TV channels to consider amending its directions on limiting advertisement time for their programmes.

The counsel appearing for Trai said that the regulator is willing to look into various issues raised by the TV broadcasters, who have moved TDSAT against the 12-minute-per-hour ceiling on advertising time for programmes.

"There are issues... we are willing to consider. We are looking at it in a broad manner," said Trai counsel Saket Singh.

The TDSAT Bench headed by its chairman, Justice S. B. Sinha agreed to Trai's request for six weeks' time for carrying out discussions and considering all the issues with a broader mindset.

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Trai assured the tribunal that it would not implement its order on restrictions imposed on the duration of advertisement time till August 30, when the next hearing of the case will be held.

Trai in its regulation had also said that the minimum time gap between any two consecutive advertisement breaks should not be less than 15 minutes for any TV programme and not less than 30 minutes for movies.

Besides, any shortfall of advertisement duration in any hour could not be carried over to another time slot either, according to the earlier directions issued by the telecom regulator.

Trai faced some tough questions from the Bench during the hearing over the overlapping of its authority with the ministry of information and broadcasting.

{table}In their petition filed with TDSAT, the broadcasters had questioned the powers of Trai contending that the regulator has no power to limit the time for advertisements. According to the broadcasters, such power vests with the Central government, which is the sole authority to issue such directions under The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.

They further claimed that the Trai Act, 1997, authorises the regulator only to make recommendations.

They have contended that Trai has exceeded the mandate given to it by the Centre and instead of making recommendations to the government, proceeded with the formulation of the regulation.

Moreover, Trai has sought to regulate not only the parameters within which the advertisements would be carried but also determined their format, nature and duration, the petition stated. The authority has very ingeniously sought to disguise content regulation as "standards of quality of service", which is not entitled to do so, the petition further stated.

The appeal was made by Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), a representative body of news and non-news channels and other broadcasting houses.

News Broadcasters Association (NBA) along with its members TV Today, NDTV, Times Global and ABP news had also approached TDSAT against the Trai directive.

"This is a positive stand taken by Trai. Broadcasters welcome this stand. Trai must take all stakeholders into confidence and consult us before taking any decision...," said Anup J. Bhambhani, counsel for NBA.

"For news broadcasters, advertising is the only source of revenue and if that is curtailed severely, they will be in dire straits. We hope that the outcome will be positive," Bhambhani added.

Courtesy: Mail Today

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