My Show Got Lost in the Ad Game

They say multitasking is for the geniuses. Well, then, in today’s world the biggest genius would be the couch potato! Watching the idiot box these days is not everyone’s task as it involves active involvement from the viewer. Not only does one have to constantly exercise one’s fingertips, juggle between the remote and the pizza slice one is holding, but most importantly, entertain himself during all those tortuous moments of repeated advertisements, browse what is coming on the rest of the channels without missing the cue of the programs he was initially watching!


Previously, it was easy to shift between channels to skip the advertisements (which is quite a skill as any experienced couch potato will tell you). But today, our broadcasters have timed their ad breaks such that you end up watching ads every channel you hit on. Also, it increasingly seems that the endless series of advertisements is the actual programme and the show is aired only in the break.


Take for example, watching a quiz show during prime time (late evening) these days. As the show host fools you into believing that the ‘quick break’ will indeed be quick, it is after hurriedly skipping to the next channel, finishing your pizza slice, washing your hands, making your bed and maybe even kissing your mother goodnight, when you walk back to the TV, hoping the show would be back, you realize that you don’t remember what you were actually watching.


The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry had responded to frustrated viewers and amended the cable TV network rules, 1994 which read, “No programme shall carry advertisements exceeding 12 minutes per hour, which may include up to 10 minutes per hour of commercial advertisements and up to 2 minutes per hour of a channel’s self promotion program”. Hence, such a rule that has the potential to provide relief to the frustrated viewer does exist, but like any other law, it is hardly, if not never strictly enforced in the Indian media. TAM Media, which is the TV tracker, recently said that the 9 pm to 12 am slot (prime time) is jammed with more number of advertisements than permitted. News channels having cheaper advertisement slots have conveniently extended the ad time to 15-18 minutes.


Another aspect to this is the scroll bar that is displayed at the bottom of the screen of many news and sports channels. There is another law, under the Advertising Code (Section 7(10) of the cable Rules) against such advertising tactics which states that, “All advertisement should be clearly distinguishable from the programme and should not in any manner interfere with the program, viz, use of the lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme.” The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry also passed an order on September 5, 2005 to set up monitoring committees for enforcing the Cable network Act. However, its implementation is far from reality. It has been found that the Hindi movie channels openly violate the 12-minute law, stretching the ad time to 15 minutes, while self promotion ads are being given almost 5 minutes instead of the stipulated 2.

Till there is some sort of awareness of such laws, the frustrated viewer will just bear what the box throws at him, complaining in irritation, thinking that nothing can really be done about this, not knowing that so much can be!


Or maybe, we should chuck the frustration and develop a fervent interest in understanding the increasingly creative but irrelevant ads aired today. Who knows, like the TV taught us multitasking, it might just end up improving an entire generation’s comprehension skills!

Neha Bhat

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