The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Monday capped the duration of advertisements on television at 12 minutes per hour, a climb-down from its recommendation in March this year of just six minutes of advertising an hour.
The ads in the clock hour shall include all types of commercials including those promoting the TV channel itself. The regulatory body also held that any shortfall in ad duration in a clock hour cannot be carried over by the broadcaster. Further, ad breaks during live broadcast of sporting events have to coincide with breaks in the sporting action, says an order termed 'standards of quality of service regulations 2012'.
The minimum time gap between consecutive ad breaks is 15 minutes, except in movie channels, where it has to be 30 minutes. Broadcasters can also only display full-screen ads on television. Part-screen or drop-down ads will not be permitted, the regulator said. Besides, the audio levels of advertisements on a channel should not be higher than those of the programmes being telecast.
The regulations are bound to lead to protests from TV channels, as they (including news channels) are against any curtailment of their liberty to cram programmes with limitless ads.
Several major publications (most of which also own TV channels) have also come out strongly against the move, claiming it would bankrupt broadcasters. Commentators say newspapers are constantly touting themselves as keepers of democracy and champions of liberal values, but are quick to react with sharp editorials and angled stories when their own interests are in any way threatened.
Viewers on the other hand will welcome any prospect of curtailment in the advertising. They have long been subjected to a level of advertising that has rendered TV programmes, including 'live' broadcast of cricket and other sports programmes, virtually unwatchable. Several viewers say they have stopped watching sports TV, despite a liking for cricket, tennis, and other sports.