The draft of the National Broadcasting Policy has come under criticism from the advertising community on grounds of being unclear and unreasonable.
The sector's main opposition to the draft, finalised by the information ministry last week, is the clause that stipulates that media outlets such as television and radio stations comply with 'internationally accepted practices and logical break' for running ads.
“It is a vague term. The government should spell out the specific time for break," said Ramendu Majumder, president of Advertising Agencies Association of Bangladesh (AAAB), while suggesting designating one-fifth of the total duration of a programme for commercial break.
The draft also calls for superimposition of food elements and nutrition on television commercials (TVCs), a clause which would be “almost impossible” to comply with due to time constraints.
“Food products have a long list of ingredients. If we put them all on screen, how would we show the product itself? Would there be any screen space left?” Majumder said.
Besides, companies, in line with instruction of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, inscribe information about the ingredients on the product's label. Reiterating them on TVCs would be superfluous, said another ad man preferring not to be named.
Subsequently, Majumder called for removal of the clause from the policy, brought about by the government with the aim to regulate the electronic media better.
The AAAB president also opposed the clause which makes its mandatory for ad-makers to take consent from composers, vocalists and lyrists before their melody is used in ads.
“Creative agencies usually don't imitate any original song or melody. Rather, they use parodies to create jingles, so it is illogical to seek permission.”
The positive aspects of the draft include banning of TVCs that promote discrimination based on complexion, contain fraudulent information, infringe on copyright acts and are hostile to environment.
The policy nullifies commercials on unapproved products and services such as clubs, tobacco and drinks containing alcohol and treatments and medicines for sliming and impotence.
The language and scenes of the spots cannot hurt the religious, political and secular sentiments, and certificates from the concerned authorities must be obtained before airing of any TVCs.
The draft policy bans advertisers from using the Language Movement, the Mass Upsurge, the Liberation War, Independence Day and Victory Day as subjects of their commercial ads.
The ad-makers are also not allowed to use children under the age of five as models in commercials promoting powdered milk.
“There is no alternative to breast milk for babies and the powder milk is not applicable for children below one year of age. It has to be superimposed in the ads on powdered milk," the policy reads.
Commercials must not contain scenes which include use of dangerous weapons by children, gallows, suicides, rapes, indecent pictures, tortures or violence on woman.
Aly Zaker, chairman and chief executive officer of Asiatic Marketing Communications Ltd, a leading ad firm, said the policy is relatively a balanced one.
“Many positive things are mentioned in the policy, but I wonder if they would be effectively implemented ultimately,” he added.
The draft also states that an independent broadcast commission will be formed to oversee programmes and recommend applicants seeking licences for broadcasting.
The commission will monitor TV and radio programmes to ensure accountability of the stations to protect the interest of the people.
It will also prepare and enforce a guideline for the broadcasters to ensure their freedom and social responsibilities.
The Bangladesh president will appoint the chairman and members to the commission following recommendations from a search committee to be comprised of journalists, academia and development activists.
The draft will be placed before the cabinet within 15 days for final approval.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the policy is likely to be finalised formally in March.
“The prime minister wants to form an information commission to lessen conflict between the government and mass media. That is why our aim is to form the commission right away,” he told The Daily Star.