The Union Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) is believed to be taking steps to involve the Press Information Bureau (PIB) in the task of auditing the circulation figures of print publications. According to sources privy to internal developments, the MIB is under a lot of pressure owing to rising complaints and allegations of “fudging numbers” vis-à-vis the number of copies printed and sold by each publication. Similar concerns have also been raised in relation to the current system of television audience measurement.
To maintain the credibility of the auditing process, the MIB is apparently very keen to provide the PIB with some space in the given assignment. However, highly placed industry sources in touch with the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) officials, claimed that PIB “might not be competent” enough to successfully carry out the job. Expressing their apprehensions, the officials reportedly indicated that they are confident of the entire work pertaining to auditing and certification being handed back to the RNI. A nodal agency of the Government of India, the PIB was set up during the time of British Raj in 1919. The agency plays a pivotal role in communicating critical information on behalf of the union government through press releases to the media.
Nevertheless, it is far removed from the auditing work at present. According to an industry source, the current audit of newspapers and magazines is carried out in two ways. While the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) takes care of publications with a claimed circulation of over 45,000 copies, the ones below that figure require an audit from an accountant which is followed by RNI certification. Established in 1956, the RNI is a central government institution performing both statutory and non-statutory functions. The former includes issuing certificates of registration and scrutiny of annual statements whereas the latter entails the preparation of the newsprint allocation policy. On the other hand, ABC is a voluntary organization of publishers, media and advertising agencies, advertisers and government bodies like the Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity (DAVP).