With the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) fixing July 17 as the next date for hearing a case relating to the cap on television advertisement time at 12 minutes per clock hour, broadcasters can afford to breathe easy for now.
The May 14 order of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which drew protests from broadcasters, had come on the last day of former chairperson JS Sarma in office.
“We are happy with the development. Broadcasters will file rejoinders and TRAI will file its reply before the next hearing,” Avnindra Mohan, president (Legal & Regulatory), Zee Network, told HT. TRAI counsel Saket Singh has given an undertaking that the regulatory body will not take any action till the next date of hearing.
In their defence, broadcasters had referred to a 2004 notification issued by the information and broadcasting ministry, where TRAI was named only as a recommendatory body as far as commercial time on TV was concerned.
The TDSAT notice is being seen as a vindication of the stand taken by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the News Broadcasters Association, which held that TRAI had “overstepped” its brief. The order had also said carryover provisions in case of shortfalls in ad duration. Also, ads were limited to breaks during live coverage of sporting events.
TRAI had stipulated that the minimum time gap between two consecutive ad breaks should be 15 minutes, and in case of movies, it should be half an hour. Besides disallowing part-screen and drop-down ads, it had also ruled the audio level of ads can’t be higher than that of programmes.