The TV ratings measurement issue is threatening to boil over again. The recent tussle between TAM Media and broadcasters had hardly died down, when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has taken serious note of the ratings issue.
The regulator invited various broadcasters for an open house discussion on the guidelines/ accreditation mechanism for television rating agencies in India in New Delhi on July 1, 2013. Present at the meeting were Dr Rahul Khullar, Chairman, TRAI; N Parmeswaran, Principal Advisor, TRAI; Wasi Ahmed, Advisor, TRAI; and Rajkumar Upadhyay, Advisor, TRAI. Representing the broadcasters were KVL Narayan Rao, President, NBA; Vivek Malhotra, Vice President - Marketing, Strategic Planning and Research, TV Today; Neeraj Sanan, CMO, MCCS; Paritosh Joshi, Technical Committee Member, BARC; Amit Kumar, COO, BAG Network; Ranjan P Thakur, Additional Director General, Doordarshan; and Shailesh Shah, Secretary General, IBF, among others.
It may be recalled that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had earlier asked TRAI to give its recommendations and also provide guidelines that will be applicable to all credit ratings agencies.
The TRAI Chairman said that the regulator has not formed any prior view on the matter and added that all stakeholders are open to give their opinions and discuss the issues.
The entire conversation gave an outline that the Government is keen on regulating the TV ratings measurement system. Two things that came out of discussion were that the Government will either give the authority to TRAI to look after the ratings system as it is not in its purview currently, or TRAI will work together with BARC or any committee to come up with an alternate ratings system.
Opposing the Government’s interference in the measurement system, KVL Narayan Rao, Vice Chairman, NDTV Group and President, News Broadcast Association said, “The only point that I want to make is that we believe self regulation is absolutely necessary, and a structured self regulation like the IBF, NBA and setting up a BARC is exactly that.”
He further said, “I would personally have very serious reservation regarding any form of Government role in the ratings agency.”
Responding to Rao’s comment and distinguishing the regulator and the Government, Khullar said, “My issue is very simple – at the end of the day, without any support, you may have a system, but you don’t have a regulation. Whenever you lay down rules, there has to be some enforcement. That does not mean that the industry or the agency has to be regulated, it means that these rules have to be complied with.”
He asked the broadcasters, “Would you want a situation where the Government stipulates those rules and lays down what the penalties are and then enforces those, or would you prefer a situation where those rules are laid down?” He added, “When I will submit the recommendations, then this question is going to arise as to who will enforce it, and that is something which all of you in the industry need to tell me.”
Speaking on BARC’s function, Paritosh Joshi said, “We have outlined a ratings process and data will be generated from the people meters and collated by panel management and sent back to BARC. Thus, the actual synthesis of ratings will take place only at BARC and no agency will publish the ratings. BARC will have the final control and release the ratings.”
He further said, “BARC will be the owner of the ratings; it will not be a market research agency, but will be the publisher of the ratings.”
Meanwhile, TRAI has asked the broadcasters to submit their opinions in writing by July 8, 2013.
Govt may start its own TV ratings system, if impasse continues: Uday Varma