Thursday, 9 October 2014

Proposed 12-minute ad cap for free-to-air channels could go

NEW DELHI: In a significant relief to free-to-air channels I&B minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday indicated that the ad-cap of 12 minutes per hour may be lifted.

"We are taking a decision....that FTA channels should be exempt from the restriction of the 12 minutes ad-cap," Javadekar said. The minister however indicated that the ad cap may continue for pay channels and suggested that the proposed rule change could become a sort of incentive for them to turn FTA.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has stipulated that there should be a 12-minute cap on advertisements that channels can show in an hour earlier this year. However, several broadcasters have opposed this rule.

The minister said that the consumer's burden has to be reduced and if a channel is showing "too many" advertisements then it should also be free-to-air. Javadekar was speaking at a meeting of a task force on digitization held here. He told reporters that the 12-minute restriction is appropriate for pay channels.

"But for FTA channels, which are providing programmes for free, is this restriction necessary for them? I don't think this is needed. And we will soon take a decision in this regard," he said.

The minister also stressed on the interoperability of set top boxes so that the digitization process would be viable for the viewers in rural areas.

Javadekar, who was speaking at the first meeting of a task force constituted by his ministry for phase III and phase IV of the digitization drive, said that it is important the consumers should get high quality signals at reasonable price.


(I&B minister Prakash Javadekar)

"The consumer is not being given this freedom with regard to STBs. Why does he have to buy the STB that the Multi System Operator asks him to? If there is interoperability of STBs, it will be such a good thing," he said.

The minister said that more technological possibilities should be explored and suggested that if there can be a "two-way" communication through cable even TRPs could be measured. The minister said that keeping in line with the Prime Minister's dream of a 'Digital India', it should be ensured that every TV viewing household should get good quality digital signals by 2016 end.

The ministry has set a deadline of December 2015 for phase III and December 2016 for phase IV of digitization by when the drive would have covered the entire country. The ministry has estimated that nearly 12 crore STBs are needed for phase III and IV of the digitization drive but added that this number could increase by another couple of crores in two years time.