In the report submitted on Television Rating Points (TRPs) by a committee assigned by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), one of the 15 stipulations suggest that “broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies should pay a certain percentage of their relevant turnovers to BARC on an annual basis to fund the expansion of sample size for TRP measurement”. The Committee further ratifies its stand by adding, “The total cost of expansion of TRP measurement system over five years would be around Rs 660 crore, which is approximately 0.32 per cent per year of the total TV industry size in India. The committee feels that this level of expenditure should not be very difficult for the industry to meet”.
Currently, about 80 per cent of the cost is borne by the broadcasters, while the rest is shouldered by media and advertising agencies in parts. In conversation with exchange4media, a key voice for advertising agencies, Nagesh Alai, President, Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), spoke on the recommendations. He said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch. The AAAI member agencies have been paying for research in the past and so will they hereafter. Having all the constituents, who will be actively involved in the research studies, pay a fair contribution is logical. The AAAI members, as always, will go by what is fair and square and pay their share of the contributions on the assumption that AAAI will be an active constituent of BARC.”
It may be recalled that the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) was first established in 2008 with three bodies – the IBF (Indian Broadcasting Foundation), the ISA (Indian Society of Advertisers) and AAAI – as active participants in the key decision making process. However, the current scenario sees the ISA and IBF with a higher involvement, with the ISA holding the option to nominate AAAI to be a part.
Tracing the change, Alai said, “I believe that AAAI has been a prime mover in BARC. Typically, given that it consists of various industry bodies with inherent divergence and conflict of interests, there were on-going negotiations internally in BARC. All of these were geared towards ensuring independence and robustness of the research studies. Somewhere along the line, the desire to take control of BARC by some overtook the need for a balanced approach, which resulted in the breakdown of talks amongst the constituents and things took an unwarranted and misplaced turn. I am sure that the talks will continue amongst the constituents to address and respond to this report. It would be wrong to say that there is no active spokesperson from AAAI.”
Speaking on the report from an overall perspective, Alai said, “My feelings are mixed. There are some positives in terms of the committee recommending that all key constituents, including advertising agencies, play a key part in BARC. There are some other positives too, like the recommendation of independence of the research agency to avoid conflict of interest, expansion of sample size to 30,000 People-meters across urban/ rural/ country, grievance redress mechanism, etc. On the other hand, there are some aspects which are intriguing and merit revisit, for example, there seems to be contradictions like the government saying that it wants to stay off TRPs, but saying that they would take control of it if nothing happens by June 2011, saying that the High Powered Committee’s (the recommended mix is at one level good) recommendations will be binding on BARC – then what is BARC for, if it cannot review recommendations and decide what is appropriate?”
Alai further reiterated his stand on the need for AAAI’s active participation in the proceedings and said, “I reckon that AAAI, whose members account for 85 per cent plus of the advertising industry, will be representing the advertising agencies on BARC, as it rightly should. Considering that AAAI was a key player and initiator of BARC, it is a vindication of AAAI’s rationale from day one.”
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