No relief from excessive TV ads, says I&B minister Tewari

06 Apr 2013


India's television viewers won't get any relief from seeing five-ball overs in cricket matches and two-hour movies that are stretched to over three hours, as the government has put the kibosh on efforts of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to reduce advertising on paid cable channels.

Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said on Friday that the TRAI, which has proposed a 12-minute per hour cap on advertising in TV channels, was straying into areas that were outside its ambit, and suggested a separate "techno-commercial" regulator for the broadcasting sector.

Tewari also said the government had no intention to regulate media content.

"The government has no intention of putting a regulator in the statutory space. When I talk to my friends in the media, I tell them I spent a fair amount of time in telecom courts, I am conversant with the TRAI Act, and I find it a bit of oxymoron that it is the broadcasting regulator as broadcasting was never supposed to be a part of the TRAI remit," he said.

"But be that as it may, for broadcasting the whole universe has grown and expanded in such an exponential manner that maybe the time has come to look on the techno-commercial side -- I underscore, underline, put in inverted commas - on the techno-commercial side, the need for a separate broadcasting authority," he added.

The minister admitted that broadcasters are unhappy about the proposed 12-minute advertising cap. He said the cap was part of the Cable TV Act, which private players had voluntarily accepted.

Sympathising with broadcasters, the minister said that broadcasters were primarily dependent on ad revenue, and this was a skewed system.

"Digitisation is an attempt to bring in a transparent revenue model to replace the advertisement-based model. Government has initiated the process of digitisation, so that real time data is made available," the minister said.

Tewari said two-thirds of his ministry's budget went to state broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which runs the Doordarshan TV channel and all-radio news through All India Radio.

He said he would be happy to see a watchdog over the government-run organisation.

"If the country needs a public broadcaster, let it be answerable directly to Parliament, as it is mandated in the Prasar Bharati Act," Tewari said.

He made no mention of the fact that Prasar Bharti, through AIR, has a monopoly on radio news; private broadcasters are not permitted to enter this area. The print and TV media have never highlighted this fact.

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