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Tuesday, May 20, 2003

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Surrogate liquor ads flow into FM radio

Nithya Subramanian


EVEN as the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry is clamping down on surrogate liquor ads appearing on various television channels, these ads seem to have crept into the various private FM radio channels.

Recently Guinness UDV's Gilbey's Green Label and UB Group's Romanov have been advertising on some private FM channels in Mumbai and Delhi.

But just as liquor ads are not permitted to advertise on TV, they cannot be heard on radio. Officials in the Ministry said FM channels would also have to follow the Broadcasting Code framed for the All India Radio (AIR) and the Doordarshan. According to the Advertising Code, tobacco products including pan masala and liquor are not permitted to advertise. "Private FM companies, as part of the licensing agreement, will have to adhere to this code," they said. Section 5 of the licensing agreement clearly states, "I undertake to follow in letter and spirit the Programme and Advertising Code of practise being followed by AIR or any other codes which may come into force anytime."

Despite this, FM companies seem to be accepting surrogate liquor ads. When contacted, officials at radio networks refused to comment on the issue calling it "a touchy one". They merely said that the same guidelines applicable to surrogate advertising on television is applicable to radio. Also, advertising by liquor companies on radio has been miniscule compared to television, they said.

The I&B Ministry has been looking at the issue of surrogate liquor advertisements and has been sending out notices to various television channels. "It has been a cat and mouse game. Once notices are issued the ads go out, but reappear after a while," said the Ministry official.

And with the revival of radio through FM, the debate over surrogate advertising on TV is being carried over to radio as well.

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