Trai for Better Telly: But why stop at limiting ads on TV channels?

Some might welcome the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India‘s (Trai) proposals to limitadvertisements on the telly. Watching the idiot box often seems like catching an occasional glimpse of a programme amid the cacophony of ads. Revenue, after all, is God for channels.

And Trai might just leave them cussing all the way out of the bank. One can imagine someone at Trai, taking a break from drafting the consumer verification norms, or the spectrum auction guidelines, or the rural telephony subsidy directives, turned on a TV set, and felt more rules were needed.

Here are some additional modest proposals: if improving the TV-viewing experience is really on Trai’s priority list, it shouldn’t stop at limiting the number of ads aired per hour. A limit on the decibel levels in TV discussions comes to mind – anchors who exceed the limit can be banned from the airwaves or be forced to broadcast the quietest of their rivals instead.

Let’s also set an upper bound on the amount of screen real estate dedicated to graphics, charts, news tickers and screaming headlines. And rules for how many ‘windows’ any channel can use during a group discussion – say, two for entertainment and sport, three for general news and under half a dozen for business news. And let’s restrict the number of times ‘Exclusive’ or ‘Breaking News‘ can be used to once a day.

Trai suggests scheduling of ads only during interruptions of play on live sporting events – but why stop there? Why not schedule ads only during the boring parts of live news events? Viewers would also appreciate smaller logos of broadcast sponsors – could Trai mandate that they be smaller than the main newscaster’s head? Throw in a restriction on the number of times sportscasters can mention their sponsors, and this policy would be much improved. Savvy, Trai?(courtesy: Economic Times.)

proposal to cut ad time irks TV channels

Advertising advertising

Advertising advertising

Irritated by those frequent commercial breaks between your favourite programme on TV? The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has taken note of viewer irritation and has come up with a proposal to regulate the duration, frequency, timing and audio levels of advertisements.

But broadcasters are not amused by the proposal to put limits on advertising, contained in the telecom and broadcasting watchdog’s consultation paper on issues related to advertisements on television. They fear their main source of revenue will be badly hit.

Mr Paritosh Joshi, CEO, Star CJ and Director, Indian Broadcasting Federation, said, “TRAI has no business to meddle with the duration of ads. The objective of each channel is to make profits and it should work on the principles of free market.” TV channels get 60 per cent of their revenues comes from advertising.

But TRAI says that broadcasters are ignoring current rules. TRAI in its paper points out that free-to-air channels should not carry ads exceeding 12 minutes an hour (this includes 10 minutes of commercials and two minutes of self promotions) and pay channels not more than six minutes of ads per hour. For live telecast of sporting events, ads should only be carried during actual breaks. These limits exist in the current rules, but are observed more in the breach.

TRAI has also pointed out that news and current affair channels cannot run more than two scrolls at the bottom of the screen, occupying a maximum of 10 per cent screen space. It also says that ads should not in any manner interfere with the programme use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme


Ms Mona Jain, CEO, Vivaki Exchange, feels that some channels do require regulation in the way they screen ads. But the industry favours self regulation.

Mr Joshi said, “Channels will exercise self regulation as they know that consumer eyeballs will go away if they were to show more ads and less of content.”

“While there should be a guideline and cap on ad durations, broadcasters are sensible enough to know where to draw the line and not to go overboard,” said Mr Jehil Thakkar, Head – Media and Entertainment, KPMG.


If the TRAI proposal goes through, will it force channels to raise ad rates? Ms Jain of Vivaki says, “Channels will want to make up for money lost due to reduced air time. But to raise rates, one will need to have commensurate increase in ratings.”

Ms Jain also points to innovations that some channels have done to make the audience stay during the ad breaks, by putting a stop clock on that shows how long the break is going to be.

She says, “Channels need to figure out how to make viewers stay during the breaks to increase rates.”

Analysts such as Pinc Research say that it is unlikely that broadcasters would allow the proposal to be implemented. TRAI has asked stakeholders to send their comments to its proposals by March 27. (courtesy: Business Line)

3 thoughts on “Trai for Better Telly: But why stop at limiting ads on TV channels?

  1. Pingback: Hindi news channels rake in the moolah on poll counting day | media laundry- @Dhobitalao

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