Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on Tuesday told sectoral's tribunal Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal that it was open to discussions with broadcasters to consider amending its directions on limiting advertisement time in TV channels.
During the proceedings, the counsel appearing for the Trai said the regulator was willing to look into various issues raised by the broadcasters which have opposed the move to put a cap on advertising time.
"There are issues. . . we are willing to consider. We are looking in a broad manner," said TRAI counsel Saket Singh.
"What so ever issue, (after discussion) we may amend also," he said.
The Trai also sought six weeks time from the tribunal for this process, which was granted by TDSAT bench headed by its Chairman Justice S B Sinha.
Moreover, Trai assured the tribunal that it would not implement its order and enforce the broadcasters to follow it till August 30, the next date of hearing.
On May 14, the Trai had issued a notification limiting the duration of advertisements in TV channels to 12 minutes per hour. Any shortfall of advertisement duration in any hour cannot be carried over, the telecom regulator had said.
Trai in its regulation had also said that the minimum time gap between any two consecutive advertisement breaks should not be less than 15 minutes and not less than 30 minutes for movies.
However, the Trai on Tuesday also faced questions from the bench over the overlapping of its authority with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
"A jurisdiction issue cannot be decided by a statutory authority," the tribunal pointed out.
Broadcasters, in their petition filed before TDSAT have questioned the powers of the Trai contending that the sectoral regulator has no power to limit the ad times.
According to the broadcasters, such power vests with the Central government and that only it can issue such directions under The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
They further claimed that the present Trai Act, 1997, authorises the regulator to make only recommendations.
"The authority has exceeded the mandate given to it by the Central government and instead of making recommendations to the government, proceeded with the formulation of the regulation," said one of the broadcasters in its petition submitted before the TDSAT.
Moreover, by the said regulation, Trai has sought to regulate not only the parameters within which the ads would be carried by the broadcasters on their respective TV channels, but also determined the format, nature and duration of the ads to be carried on TV, the broadcaster said.
"The authority has very ingeniously sought to disguise content regulation as Standards of Quality of Service, which is not entitled to do so," said the petition.
The appeal was made by Indian Broadcasting Foundation, a representative body of news and non-news channels and other broadcasting houses including -- ESPN India, Multi Screen Media, Neo Sports, Discovery Communication.
News Broadcasters Association along with its members NDTV, Times Global (owner of Times Now), TV Today and ABP news had also approached TDSAT against the Trai directive.
On June 12, TDSAT had issued a notice to the Trai, asking the regulator to file reply within three weeks.
It also gave two weeks time to IBF and other broadcasters to file rejoinders over Trai's reply.