NEW DELHI, 27 November: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry today informed the Delhi High Court that it was in talks with the News Broadcasters Association and other stakeholders on the issue of the advertising cap of 12 minutes per hour.
Consequently, the Court put off hearing of the matter to 11 February. This is the first time that the Ministry has put in an appearance in the petition filed by the News Broadcasters and others against the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and others.
The Bench observed that the matter had been pending for some time and therefore it will hear and conclude the case in the next hearing.
Counsel for NBA Nisha Bhambhani also said that talks were on with the Ministry in this regard.
Meanwhile in an intervention MSO Home Cable Network (P) Ltd said it wanted to intervene as it was directly affected by the outcome of the present petition. Lawyer Vivek Sarin appearing for Home Cable said in the intervention application that “the ordinary subscribers are unduly burdened with unjustified charges when the cost of operating the channels can be recovered from the advertisement revenue. The said cost includes notional profits also.”
The application wanted the NBA petition to be dismissed and added: “The Pay channel broadcasters are profiteering at the expense of subscribers and the DPO’s. There is no justification for changing monthly subscription when commercial advertisements are inserted. The Standards of Quality of Service (Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems) Regulations 2012 (with Amendments thereafter) is justified to the extent they are applicable to Pay Channels. The pay channel broadcasters cannot charge the subscription fee while inserting commercials into the content or in the alternative, the subscribers have to be compensated for the revenue earned on the basis of their being subscribers of the channels.”
In the last two hearings on 8 and 23 September, the NBA had sought the adjournment on the ground that the matter was under discussion with the Ministry to seek certain clarifications.
(It is learnt by indiantelevision.com that this comes in the wake of a statement made by Minister Arun Jaitley in January this year that there should be no ad cap in the print or electronic media, However, no instructions have been issued in this regard by the Minister so far,).
The order that TRAI will not take any action against any channel pending the petition will continue. In an earlier hearing, the Court had, at the regulator's instance, directed that all channels keep a record of the advertisements run by them.
The NBA had challenged the ad cap rule, contending that TRAI does not have jurisdiction to regulate commercial airtime on television channels.
Apart from the NBA, the petitions have been filed by Sarthak Entertainment, Pioneer Channel Factory, E24 Glamoru, Sun TV Network, TV Vision, B4U Broadband, 9X Media, Kalaignar, Celebrities Management, Eanadu Television and Raj Television.
The news and regional broadcasters fear that the capping of commercial airtime will curtail their ad revenues. They also argue that the ad cap must be brought only after the benefits of cable TV digitisation start showing.
Meanwhile, TRAI had three months earlier released results of their records which show that around 36 news channels apart from 105 General Entertainment Channels are violating the ad cap by telecast ads of more than 12 minutes an hour.