With Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss urging stern action against surrogate advertising, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has sent a notification to all broadcasters amending a Section of Rule 7 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, relating to the prohibition of advertisements of cigarettes, tobacco products, wine, alcohol, liquor or other intoxicants, either directly or indirectly. While the notice was effective from March 10, 2008, which is the date of issue, the I&B Ministry gave an additional week to all channels to stop all forms of surrogate advertising. The deadline now is March 17, 2008, and all channels are ‘confused’.
Jawahar Goel, President, Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) explained that this notice was only for advertising that might not have got clearance from the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Nonetheless, to get clarity on the matter, the IBF has sought time to meet the I&B Minister on the matter.
In the meanwhile, broadcasters say that the notice creates a lot of confusion. SET India’s Revenue Head, Rohit Gupta, said, “This is definitely creating a lot of chaos as there are genuine brand extensions of corporates that are also in the liquor or tobacco industry. How do we decide what is surrogate and what is brand extension? There has to be further clarity on this.”
Joy Chakraborthy, President-Revenue, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, said, “This would definitely be a hit on revenues, and since the deadline is upon us, we need to have clarity on the matter soon.”
The notice, dated March 10, 2008, had said, “It was brought to the knowledge of the Government that there are widespread violations of the Advertising Code by promotion of surrogate advertisements in respect of the mentioned prohibitive products. Keeping in mind the sensitivity involved, especially the impressions that such ads create on minors, the Government has amended the existing rule by providing that ‘No direct advertisement shall be permitted, which promotes directly or indirectly production, sale or consumption of cigarettes, tobacco products, wine, alcohol, liquor or other intoxicants.”
It may be recalled that a similar ban was seen in April 2005. However, the I&B Ministry then had said that brand extensions were exempted from this ban, and the likes of Kingfisher and Wills continued with mass media advertising after this. Also, at around the same time, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), which monitors advertising, was made a part of the Cable Act 1994.
With a dual check on the industry for the past two years, off properties like White Mischief Holidays, Red and White Bravery Awards, Bagpiper Soda, amongst many others, have been seen on television, or even in other mediums like print and outdoor. The industry still doesn’t seem to know more on what the new notice would mean, and which advertisers would now only have to look at mediums like print and outdoor for their marketing.