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FTA channels to be exempted from ad cap rule: I&B Minister

MUMBAI: The government will exempt free-to-air (FTA) channels from the ad cap rule and will soon take steps in that direction to make that a reality, Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

This news will be music to the ears of several news, music and regional broadcasterprakash-javdekar-mains who have been fighting a legal battle with the government and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for imposing ad cap on them.

“We will soon take a decision to exempt FTA channels from the 12-minute ad cap rule. Pay channels will, however, have to adhere to the ad cap rule. With this decision, I am encouraging them [pay channels] to go free,” Javadekar said during the Task Force meeting on Phases III and IV of cable TV digitisation.

In the same breath, the minister said that he was in favour of ad cap for pay channels. He said that pay channels should not bombard customers with excessive ads.

“The 12-minute ad cap imposed by TRAI is right. How can pay channels air so many ads? It’s ridiculous that consumers should pay for the channel and at the same time watch ads also. However, should the FTA channels be subjected to ad cap rule? I don’t think so,” Javadekar added.

He said that the broadcasters can run ads, but then they should make their channels free for the customer to watch.

The MIB will have to amend the Cable TV Network Rules (CTNR) 1994 to enforce the exemption of FTA channels from following the ad cap rule.

As per the Advertising Code under the CTNR, “No programme shall carry advertisements exceeding 12 minutes per hour, which may include up to 10 minutes per hour of commercial advertisements, and up to 2 minutes per hour of a channel’s self-promotional programmes”.

The FTA broadcasters have been demanding that they should be exempted from the ad cap rule as they are dependent on ad revenue for sustenance unlike pay broadcasters who also get subscription revenue.

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA), along with music and regional channels, challenged the ad cap rule in the Delhi High Court. The HC directed TRAI not to take coercive action against the petitioners till final orders. Recently, the case was adjourned till 20 November.

TRAI had notified Standards of Quality of Service (Duration of Advertisements in Television Channels) Amendment Regulations, 2013 on 20 March 2013.

The ad cap rule, which came into effect on 1 October 2013, is being adhered to by broadcasters like Star India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), Viacom18 and Multi Screen Media.