When the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) amended the Cable Television Act and introduced the 10+2 ad cap under the aegis of Standards of Quality of Service (duration of advertisement in TV channels), the move understandably didn’t meet with much enthusiasm by broadcasters. It was found that this diktat was being regularly breached with ad breaks stretching beyond the stipulated time period per clock hour of telecast. Now, with the TRAI turning the heat on this issue, broadcasters feel that the regulator is overreaching itself.
In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Uday Kumar Varma, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shared, “Broadcasters had come to the Ministry and conveyed their problems. They said that since digitisation is going on, fair business models are yet to come into play. The broadcasters also shared that many of them are still bleeding and running into losses. They added that they don’t want any dilution in the regulation, but asked for some more time to tide over the difficult period. Once the subscription revenues start building up post digitisation, broadcasters said they will voluntarily adopt the ad cap regulation.”
Varma further informed that he is planning to meet TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar regarding the ad cap issue.
At the same time, the MIB Secretary expressed concern over the continuing violation of the ad cap regulation. It has been found that as against the 10+2 ad cap, some channels have been airing almost 30 minutes of ads in a clock hour. Varma said, “Broadcasters are facing some problems in terms of survival and are incurring losses. But then also they have to be reasonable, obviously one can understand the 12-minute ad cap being breached and stretching to 13 minutes or 15 minutes, but it is not understandable why 12 minutes are stretching to 30-35 minutes.”
Besides the ad cap issue, changes in Prasar Bharati as well as FM radio Phase III expansion are some prominent issues in the media industry. Regarding filling up the vacancies in Prasar Bharati, Varma said, “We have settled the issue of employees. The Prasar Bharati employees have been given the status of government employees.”
In another significant step, the Government has waived off all spectrum charges of Prasar Bharati that it has to pay to the Department of Telecommunications as well as liabilities worth several thousand crore rupees.
As far as expansion of FM radio services in the country is concerned, it may be recalled that a number of radio players are not happy with the ascending auctions method as they feel that this method is not effective enough. A way out is e-auction for which the Cabinet has given its nod, Varma said, adding, “This has been endorsed by the Group of Ministers. E-auction is a completely transparent process and will leave no room for criticism.”
It will be interesting to see whether broadcasters will welcome the e-auction process or will it create another spat between the Government and broadcasters.