New Delhi/ Mumbai: The food & beverages industry and the health sector—that routinely violate advertising guidelines—will continue signing self-declaration forms for their ads, but just once a year, according to new rules issued by the government.

All other sectors and industries are not required to file any self-declaration.

In a major development following multiple meetings with industry bodies, the ministry of information and broadcasting in an advisory issued late Wednesday evening, said that it has made an update superseding two advisories issued earlier in June, stating that only advertisers in these two sectors must fill a self-declaration and not all advertisers. 

Declarations on broadcast seva, PCI portals

For TV and radio advertisements, these declarations will be required to be uploaded on the ministry’s broadcast seva portal. For advertisements in the press, print media, or online, the declarations can be uploaded on the portal of the Press Council of India (PCI).

A senior official in the ministry confirmed to Mint that this advisory was to clarify that only advertisements relating to food and healthcare are covered under the new rules and those have to give an annual self-declaration certificate. 

The responsibility lies with the advertisers and agencies, not the broadcasters or publishers.

The advertising industry, while broadly welcoming the softening of the regulatory glare, said those making self-declarations needed to be made accountable.   

“An annual self declaration should also have some teeth, which could save advertisers a lot of the effort. This declaration should also be made legally binding with self-attestation,” said Sandeep Goyal, chairperson of Redifussion, a leading ad agency.

Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary General, Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), added: “Commitment to honest advertising remains paramount and the industry must continue its commitment to being compliant with all applicable laws. Advertising is under increased regulatory scrutiny and advertisers and agencies should take the required steps to ensure compliance. This is true across sectors.”

In recent weeks, industry groups had been in discussions with the government, seeking alternatives to new compliance rules they find challenging. 

While they had begun to adhere to the requirements put in place, these had added a lot of paperwork to their daily work. 

In fact, the ministry’s website had also been unable to take the load from a rush of self-declarations being made by each advertiser for many different creatives. During the self-declaration process which began on 18 June, the website also experienced crashes.

In Patanjali’s wake

These new regulations came into effect after a Supreme Court ruling in May in the Patanjali Ayurved case, which led the ministry of information and broadcasting to mandate that all advertisers must declare compliance with cable television rules and advertising codes for all their ads.

Other than the practicality of complying with the new regulations for every single advertisement, it was proving to be very cumbersome for digital ads as they are far higher in volume, which can see each company filing 5-10 creative digital posts or ads a day. 

Compounding the issue is that many companies also bypass ad agencies and advertise directly on their own social media platforms. Additionally, there is ambiguity between what constitutes an advertisement versus information, which needs further clarification, experts said.

“It’s a good step as it addresses which was much needed and a lot of issues being raised by startups, etc. considering it’s an additional compliance burden of the two important advertisement sectors,” Dhruv Garg, a tech policy and legal consultant based in Delhi told Mint.

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