New Delhi: Upset over "inaction" on complaints against broadcasters, TRAI has asked I&B Ministry to explicitly clarify that the regulator is empowered to enforce rules on duration and format of TV advertisements if it wants to avoid possible "embarrassment" and litigation.
According to sources, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is learnt to have written a letter to Information and Broadcasting Ministry noting that "broadcasters continue to breach the rules repeatedly.
"Movies screened on entertainment channels that should, at best, last for three hours (for two and half hour film) easily stretch to four or more hours."
This has led to a "groundswell of public opinion against the blatant violation of the rules and, more importantly, against the perceived inaction by the government in terms of enforcement of the rules," the letter said.
Referring to a sample report provided to it by the Ministry, TRAI noted that there has been substantial number of complaints reported to the Ministry regarding violations of the advertising code with respect to the duration and format of advertisements.
"The report provided by Ministry, leads the Authority to observe that, so far, almost none of the reported violations to it have culminated in any tangible action against the respective service providers," the TRAI letter was quoted as saying by the sources.
From sample report, TRAI has observed that popular entertainment programmes consistently have advertising breaks well in excess of the 12 minutes per hour limit imposed in the rules.
TRAI has issued standards for Quality of Service on duration of advertisement in television channels in May 2012. The regulation has been challenged by broadcasters in Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) and jurisdiction of TRAI to issue such regulation has been raised in the case.
TRAI letter said when the matter comes up before the tribunal, the regulator will have to lay the facts of the case and the motivations for its interventions before the court.
"This will then be in the public space and it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that once such facts are disclosed it may prompt a slew of public interest litigations, leave aside the embarrassment it would cause the government," it said.
TRAI has sought information from Ministry of the action it intends to take or has taken to immediately bring the "menace of excessive advertising under control".
The regulator said that the matter can also be settled if "the government explicitly clarifies that TRAI is empowered to regulate and enforce the duration and format of advertisements being carried in TV channels."