Uday Kumar Varma, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) firmly supports a transparent and accountable television measurement system. But at the same time, he is also against broadcasters dictating terms regarding where to install the people meters and how these should be operated.
In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Varma maintained, “As far as TAM is concerned, MIB would like a completely transparent system to exist, and the statistical parameters which are the basis of coming out with these figures must be completely transparent and open. We have been asking TAM to improve their systems and they have assured the Ministry regarding the same, but I think the progress has not been satisfactory.”
Varma further said that MIB had suggested that the broadcast industry should set up an alternative measurement system as soon as possible. Referring to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), he said, “I held at least three meetings in the last six months and am looking at the urgency of the matter. We have received in writing from the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and the industry that they will be able to put a credible system in place by March 2014. I do hope the industry keeps its word.”
Involve multiple agencies
Meanwhile, the MIB Secretary is in favour of multiple agencies involved in measuring television ratings. According to him, “Ideally, there should be no problem if there are multiple agencies involved which will make it easier for consumers and broadcasters to pick the ratings. But, if the market for some reason doesn’t allow any other player, then TAM can continue and the industry can create its own rating system.”
When asked if he is in favour of multiple currencies or there should be just one currency, Varma replied, “It could be more than one; there was a time when there were two currencies in India for television ratings. It is always good to have competition in any area, so why not in the area of television ratings? But the system should be a transparent one; lots of areas are not covered, besides, the anonymity of people meter locations is highly suspect these days. We can’t have a Rs 40,000-crore industry being run on a system which is imperfect.”
Can’t leave out the LC1 markets
The major point of dispute from broadcasters is regarding the ratings from the LC1 markets. In an earlier interaction with exchange4media, TAM CEO LV Krishnan had said, “If there is consensus in the advertising fraternity that TAM should not measure LC 1 markets, we will acknowledge that perspective and move to whatever is ideal.”
Sharing his views on shifting the people meters from LC1 markets, Varma said, “Both urban and rural areas have to be covered. There is no question of shifting the people meters, instead TAM should increase their numbers and cover the areas that they haven’t covered so far.”
Adding further, he said, “It doesn’t matter what the broadcasters feel, it’s a credible rating mechanism that they should think about. Why should TAM respond to what broadcasters want, as long as it is presenting the ratings in a transparent and credible manner?”
Varma stressed, “If broadcasters decide how the people meters should operate, then I think the basis of that measurement system is unacceptable.”
At the same time, the MIB Secretary maintained that the ratings agency will have to improve its performance. He affirmed, “TAM will have to make the ratings far more transparent and comprehensive, there is no other way. Expansion has to be done, new areas have to be covered, and the number of people meters has to be increased.”
Meanwhile, as reported earlier by exchange4media, BARC is on track to launch an alternate ratings measurement system by the first quarter of next year. In the intermediate period, broadcasters have to decide whether they want to continue with ratings that they do not altogether find credible, or they want to go ahead with no ratings. It won’t be the first time that broadcasters are functioning in a situation with no ratings. Such a situation had arisen during the first phase of cable TV digitisation, wherein ratings had been suspended for a period of 8-9 weeks.