Content regulation for TV channels is back in contention with the recent statement of MIB Special Secretary that the Government was likely to implement content regulation in three tiers for news channels. While the first two tiers will be offered for self-regulation, the third tier will be an independent autonomous body.
While broadcasters are pondering over the proposal, advertisers are not that concerned, though they are keeping a sharp eye on the developments. Ajay Kakar, CMO - Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group, said, “An advertiser goes wherever his audiences are and as long as the channels and programmes attract the requisite eyeballs, the advertiser will capitalise on quality opportunities.”
He further said, “But with the era of the Internet, we have to admit that the viewer now has a choice to source his preferred content from any and every source. Therefore, per se, I would advocate self regulation - both at the channel and viewer end - let them decide what they want to show, basis what their viewers want to see. At best, broad guidelines could be discussed and agreed upon.”
When asked whether content regulation was necessary, Karthi Kumar Marshan, Head, Group Marketing, Kotak Mahindra, remarked, “By not taking suitable cognizance of the slaps on the wrist media industry got in the past, it has practically forced the Government’s hand to take a more serious stance. My political leanings are liberal, so I think people should be allowed to consume the content they deem fit. However, television is a slightly different kettle of fish, in the sense that there is unbridled access to all age groups in a home. It seems we may have no choice but to police this to some extent until technology is able to deliver true access restrictions at the opt-in level.”
“I only hope the regulators are given enough teeth to make a relevant impact, while not affecting a fundamental tenet of democracy,” he added.
On the impact on advertisers, Marshan said, “Advertising content is already regulated at various levels, so this is not new to us. In fact, insofar as regulation in practice running the risk of being arbitrary, proper policy formulation may actually assist us in anticipating correctly the appropriateness or otherwise of the content we commission.”
On the other hand, Sanjay Tripathy, Executive VP and Head Marketing, HDFC Standard Life, believed that it was too early to say how the content regulation would impact the advertisers. However, he added, “The issue of content regulation is a very sensitive and unending debate. Press being the fourth pillar of democracy, should be out of the regulation ambit. I also feel that the intense competition in the market may bring out the issue of ethics and standards.”
“If the Government implements content regulation, it’s to be seen how they are going about it. I feel that the regulation should not curb the sanctity and freedom of the media,” Tripathy stressed.
Kakar of Aditya Birla Group summed up his views with an analogy and said, “Once your children grow up, they say that you should try and become their friend. Coming across like a stern principal will only force them to rebel. Similarly, let’s acknowledge that today’s Indian viewers have ‘grown up’. So, it’s advisable to understand and befriend them, rather than police them.”
It will have a positive impact: Media planners
Can content regulation have an impact on the media plans? According to Mohit Joshi, Executive Director - North, MPG, “If the channel is showing provocative programming during regular hours, then such a step is necessary. If self regulation does not work, then an independent regulatory body needs to do this job.”
He further said, “Yes, content regulation is necessary. Broadcasters have been testing the limits through provocative programming to gain TVRs and there needs to be a body which regulates this. But I don’t see any direct impact on advertisers. If at all, it will be positive as some clients who do not enter certain environments (due to content sensitivities) will be encouraged to associate with those channels.”
Narendra Kumar Alambara, General Manager & Office Head, Starcom Worldwide, Chennai, noted, “Any regulations have aspects that seem relevant and necessary from one point of view and to others it might seem as an imposition and a constraint. Care must be taken that not all channels (content providers) be painted with the same brush used to tar a few errant players. While in the past a few players have overstepped the moral/ social boundaries that have necessitated such regulations, most channels have shown adequate restraint and self regulation in the past.”
On the impact on advertisers, he explained, “While advertisers will not be significantly affected by these regulations, it will have a few positives to take forward – advertisers will have a clear indication of the channels that have been censured in the recent past. They can plan to use or drop them from the plans. And second is, since most advertisers seek an ideal wholesome, family-friendly editorial environment, they can now be assured of it, adding value to their advertising communication.”
Surbhi C Murthy, Deputy General Manager, Allied Media India, commented, “Content code will surely impact the channel’s TRP and advertisers don’t take much time to move their money to other channels. But we will have to wait and watch. As a media planner, I don’t think content code is good, because numbers may go down after the implementation, but as a responsible citizen of India, I believe it’s good to have content regulation for news channels.”
Watch this space tomorrow to know more on the editors’ views on regulation.
Government likely to moot 3-tier content regulation for news channels