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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
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Is TRAI in the right to regulate TV ads?
Consumers have hailed it but broadcasters feel TRAIís advertising cap on tv smacks of regulatory overreach. But what forced the regulatorís hand and what will be its impact?
Despite a whole panoply of arguments deployed both in favour of and against the capping of advertising time on television, what still begs the question is: even if formal advertising breaks are limited in size, can not broadcasters find ways to tiptoe around it? What if they start pushing more product placements in their programming, for example? Will TRAI then intercede again to regulate exactly how many times a product is shown in regular programming and how? Whatís also a moot question is whether regulating the duration of advertisement breaks will necessarily make for a more pleasant viewing experience. Whatís the guarantee that channels will not try out other ingenious ways to circumvent the TRAIís ruling, which could make for an even more jarring viewing experience? But while there are ways to getting around regulations on TV advertising, broadcasters understand that too much advertising will anyway drive away viewers. So many channels are already looking at self-regulating their ad time in order to offer better quality viewing experience and add to their subscribersí ranks. With digitalisation already under way, subscription income for broadcasters is expected to jump multifold and could even become the primary source of their revenue stream. As for the consumers, with the digitalisation process gaining momentum, TV lovers will surely welcome TRAIís move to cap advertising time with open arms. They can finally watch their favourite shows with better picture quality and fewer interruptions or buying compulsions.

On the other hand, TRAIís advertising cap may have come too late in the day because in an increasingly digital era, advertsing restrictions may not hold much relevance. As digitalisation takes root, consumers will come to have absolute choice in choosing any channel and paying accordingly: it is up to the subscriber to opt to watch a channel with advertisements at a lower cost or pay a premium to watch a channel without ads. In the unfolding scenario, broadcasters will per force have to automatically regulate ad time as too many ad breaks will surely shoo away subscribers, thus affecting their business and market standing. So even though the grounds for TRAIís latest action cannot be faulted at, there might have been a good chance, given the increasing pace of digitalisation, that channels would have come around to self-regulating the ad time on their own. Still the notification will act as a timely reminder to broadcasters to not go overboard on advertising and keep viewersí interests in mind.

Sanjay Kumar           
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