MIB continues its efforts to streamline 'self-declaration certificate' mechanism

In its affidavit to the Supreme Court on July 9th, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting requested the court to permit only one portal to upload 'self-declaration certificates' for ads. Before that, on July 4th it restricted the mechanism to only food and health sectors, annually.

By  Akanksha NagarJul 11, 2024 8:35 AM
MIB continues its efforts to streamline 'self-declaration certificate' mechanism
Stakeholders say that the MIB is demonstrating its commitment to enhancing the ease of doing business in the advertising sector. (Image source: Alan de la Cruz via Unsplash)

After having thoroughly discussed and observed significant challenges and concerns raised by the advertising industry stakeholders, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is fostering a more organised and transparent 'self-declaration' mechanism, setting a precedent for other regulatory processes, so to speak.

In its continuous efforts to centralise the mechanism, the Ministry requested the Supreme Court on July 9 to permit only a single portal for uploading a 'self-declaration certificate' for ads in all formats. In its affidavit, it highlighted how doing so can reducing the burden and simplify the bureaucratic process for advertisers and agencies involved.

Following the SC's directive, the Ministry last month had introduced features on the Broadcast Seva Portal (BSP) for TV and radio advertisements and on the Press Council of India’s (PCI) portal for print and digital/internet ads to submit the certificate signed by an authorised representative of the advertiser/advertising agency. No ads are permitted to run on television, print media, or the internet without a valid SDC.

As of today, PCI has over 76,000 SDCs on its portal and BSP has over 9,000 SDCs.

In its affidavit, the Ministry said, "It is respectfully submitted that Court's order of May 7 for creation of two separate portals, one for print and internet and another for TV, has been been duly implemented. However, for administrative prudence and improving consumer/user experience, it is humbly requested that a single portal for uploading SDC for all media including print, electronic, internet kindly be permitted by the Court."

"This will ensure that all SDCs are readily available at a single portal for public/stakeholder viewing and avoid duplication without diluting the purpose of filing such SDCs," it added in its affidavit.

In another significant move on July 4, the Ministry restricted the SDC mechanism for ads to food and health sectors only, while making it an annual mandate.

Sujata Gupta, Secretary General, DNPA, told Storyboard18 that the proactive engagement of the government and judiciary in addressing industry concerns demonstrates a strong commitment to fostering a supportive environment for stakeholders.

"This collaborative approach is essential for achieving a balanced and effective regulatory framework," she said.

Implementing a single portal for the SDCs will significantly reduce administrative tasks and eliminate duplication, said experts.

"This streamlined process ensures that advertisers and agencies can focus more on their creative and strategic efforts rather than being bogged down by repetitive administrative procedures. It will also provide a centralised database, making it easier to verify compliance and maintain records," said Ambika Sharma, Founder and MD, Pulp Strategy.

Further, reducing the mechanism to only food and health sectors will lead to a better adherence to regulatory standards.

However, according to her, one potential anomaly is the lack of clear guidelines on how to handle advertisements that straddle multiple sectors.

For instance, wellness products often fall under both health and lifestyle categories.

Overall, the ad land believes the MIB is demonstrating its commitment to enhancing the ease of doing business in the advertising sector.

"A centralised portal can ensure uniformity, improve tracking, and provide a user-friendly interface, making compliance easier for stakeholders. If approved, this move could set a precedent for other regulatory processes, fostering a more organised and transparent system," noted Yasin Hamidani, Director, Media Care Brand Solutions.

Ultimately, the single portal simplifies the process for advertisers, offering unified guidelines, metrics, and analytics, he noted.

With this, MIB can also implement advanced tools for better ad tracking, compliance, and feedback, ensuring transparency and efficiency.

This focused approach not only optimises advertisers' efforts but also enhances the quality and relevance of content for the audience.

Key representations

With respect to the compliance of the SC order of May 7, the Ministry in its affidavit to the SC highlighted actions taken with regard to stakeholders' awareness, stakeholders' consultation and the creation of BSP and PCI portals.

The Ministry further presented key concerns raised by various industry bodies and stakeholders.

- Google representative pointed out complexity of the digital advertising landscape, emphasising the challenges in dynamically created ads and compliance due to the sheer volume and variability.

- Nestle representative suggested that until a comprehensive system is in place, the regulation should be self-regulation and non-mandatory, allowing the industry to adjust and develop compliance strategies.

- In its representation submitted to the MIB, Advertising Agency Association of India (AAI) highlighted that SDC for each ad is cumbersome due to the high volume of ads. It requested the postponement of the implementation date to address logistical challenges, which was not acceded by the Ministry.

- Indian Newspaper Society (INS) argued that SDC requirement disproportionately affected the newspaper industry especially small and medium-sized agencies and added that the timeline didn't consider the industry input and requested delay until SC's vacation for a fair resolution.

- Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) representative emphasised challenges related to scale and complexity in compliance especially in digital advertising. Further, it emphasised about the challenges in compliance w.r.t. dynamic nature of digital ads.

- Digital News Publishers Associations (DNPA) pointed out the difficulty of regulating international advertisers, who operate beyond direct control and compliance with domestic regulations.

- Broadband India Forum (BIF) raised concerns about the burden of managing SDC for every ad and regulatory overlaps with the existing laws, leading to confusion and delays.

- Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) expressed concerns about the ambiguity of scope of advertisements and practical difficulties with the implementation.

- National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) suggested focusing on curbing unethical advertising practices without overburdening the industry with SDC. It was proposed manageable compliance like SDC as part of the annual or bi-annual statement.

- Association of Radio Operators of India (AROI) representative highlighted that many radio advertisers are small businesses without any digital capabilities and placing an additional burden on radio stations to comply with the SDC requirement is harmful for the radio industry.

- Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) representative pointed out the practical challenges of implementing individual SDC for ads created in, multiple languages and versions, advocating for a more efficient compliance approach.

The affidavit also included other major concerns raised, such as:

- Local advertisers: FM radio stations in tier-2,3 cities rely on local advertisers who may lack the resources including digital capability for uploading SDC, risking significant revenue loss.

- Volume of ads: The high volume of daily ad creatives makes verifying each SDC within the required timeframe impractical.

- Programmatic/digital ads: Ensuring compliance for numerous programmatic and digital ads is unfeasible and disrupts automation reducing efficiency for many.

- Confidentiality Issues: Mandating SDC before each ad is released risks revealing confidential business strategies, thereby affecting competitiveness.

Other major concerns include operational and financial burden, impact on social media and influencer posts, impact on overseas advertisers, and cost of compliance for multiple entities.

In light of these observations, a bench comprising Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Sandeep Mehta, on July 9, directed the MIB to continue conducting brainstorming sessions with stakeholders on how an implementable mechanism can be achieved. The Ministry is also instructed to file an affidavit with their recommendations within the next three weeks. The apex court also appointed an amicus curiae in the case, Shadan Farasat, to assist the court with the implications of this regime, as well as the larger issues raised in the case.


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First Published on Jul 11, 2024 8:35 AM

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