The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued regulations regarding ‘Duration of advertisements in television channels’ to all broadcasters, following complaints from subscribers on the increasing duration and distracting formats of TV ads which has affected the TV viewing experience. TRAI had previously released a consultation paper in March 2012 and had invited comments & counter-comments from various stakeholders like consumers, consumer organisations and cable operators till April 2, 2012.
TRAI said it had received 29 comments in response to its consultation paper and with intentions to strike a balance between providing a good TV viewing experience to consumers and protecting the commercial interests of TV broadcasters, it has released these regulations regarding the duration of advertisements carried in TV channels.
Highlights of the new regulations
- Maximum Duration Limit of Advertisements: TRAI has mandated that the duration of advertisements in the TV channels should be limited to 12 minutes per clock hour and the leftover advertisement duration (if any) in any clock hour will not be carried over to the next hour. These advertisements will include all types of advertisements including advertising spots, info-commercials and self-promotional advertisements from the broadcaster.
- Advertisement breaks only during breaks for live sporting events: In case of live broadcast of sporting events, the advertisements should be carried out by the broadcaster only during the breaks in the sporting action e.g. half time in football or hockey match, lunch/ drinks break an change of overs in cricket matches, game/set change in case of lawn tennis etc
- Time gaps between consecutive advertisements breaks during telecast of movies and other programmes: The minimum time gap between any two consecutive advertisement breaks i.e. the end of one advertisement session and the start of the next advertisement session during a programme should not be less than 15 minutes. In case of movies, the time gap between two consecutive advertisement breaks will be 30 minutes and there is no such conditions for live sporting events, considering the nature of these events.
- No Partial Advertisements: TRAI mandated that there would be only full screen advertisements, and part screen advertisements or drop down advertisements will not be allowed. This would certainly come as a blow to sports broadcasters who sell screen overlays as part of ad inventory. Also, we believe that broadcasters would not be able to promote their own shows/events through overlays.
- Audio Level of Advertisements: TRAI stated that broadcasters should ensure that the audio level of advertisements should not be higher than the audio level of the programmes.
In March 2012, TRAI had stated that the existing provisions prescribe that no programme should 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 provisions in the rules also provided that all advertisements should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the programme viz use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme. However, it had noticed that channels were not abiding by these rules.
Further, TRAI had also said that some of the consumer organizations had put forth an opinion that there is little justification for pay channels to show advertisements since they already pay subscription fees for viewing pay channels.