The Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) planning to bring advertisements of five brands under the magnifying glass. It has decided to take a hard look at surrogate advertising by Charms cigarette, Smirnoff Vodka (both of which sell audio cassettes and CDs), Haywards 5000 (darting kits), Royal Challenge Whiskey (golf accessories) and Kingfisher beer (water) at its next meeting to be held later this month.
According to analysts, these companies had been advertising their products surrogately, but there was a clear recall of the actual products. Hence a committee under the Additional Secretary, Mr Anil Baijal, had already been set up to look into the issue.
The committee will look into the various advertisements and determine whether a particular advertisement would be surrogate advertising or not. It can take cognisance suo motu or look at specific complaints regarding violation of code.
The Ministry has already clamped down on two brands - McDowell No 1 and Gilbey's Green Label - which used surrogate advertising extensively to sell liquor. The Ministry had issued show-cause notices to broadcasters such as Star, Zee, Sony and Aaj Tak seeking explanation why action should not be taken for violation of Rule 7 of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1999 for carrying surrogate advertising on liquor.
Both Zee and Star have agreed to withdraw the ads. Similar letters from other broadcasters are also expected shortly.. Meanwhile, all the broadcasters have been asked to adhere to the advertising codes prescribed under the Act.
This issue was also discussed at Wednesday's Parliamentary Consultative Committee meeting wherein the I&B Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, updated the members on the issue of surrogate advertising. The members also expressed concern over the increase in not only surrogate advertising, but also the vulgar and obscene manner in which these advertisements were being presented.