The situation has been a fluid one in the last 20 days or so regarding the ratings dispute. The industry has seen several leading broadcasters pulling out of TAM data, then there have been reports of some of these broadcasters going back on the decision to unsubscribe from TAM data. Now, there are reports of a possible meeting between the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and TAM to resolve the ratings imbroglio. Transparency in the ratings system and the installation of people meters are the two major contentious issues for the broadcasters.
Amid all the sound bytes, Prasar Bharati has maintained its silence. Jawhar Sircar, CEO, Prasar Bharati breaks his silence in this exclusive conversation with exchange4media.
Sircar said, "I am not interested to know who is subscribing to or withdrawing from TAM ratings. The most important issue is transparency. We were not informed officially, but have come to know through press reports that broadcasters are unhappy with the placement of people meters in LC 1 markets. But, you can’t have a ratings system without representing the heartland of India. It does not matter what the purchasing power of the people is, what matters is their aspiration. Ratings should not be limited to Raisina Hill and Pali Hill."
When asked whether he is happy with the way TAM is performing, Sircar replied, "I would like to make it clear that we are not clear about what TAM is doing. The question of unhappiness arises out of their obfuscated data; let them come out in a transparent manner, only then we can challenge it or support it."
Coming out in support of regional media, the Prasar Bharati CEO affirmed, "It doesn’t not matter whether TRPs go up or down, but we should at least know what Bharat or Hindustan wants. Do not standardise taste, it’s a plural country and this diversity is our strength. No regional channels have pulled the plug on TAM yet, only big business and multinational houses are leaving. Regional TV and regional language will be an emerging force in India."
He also mentioned about rumours doing the rounds of TAM being brought under supervision. Reacting to this, Sircar said, "What contradictory statements they are making? On the one hand, you are saying that BARC is ready, so you can afford to do without TAM, while on the other hand, you are saying you are trying to bring TAM under your control."
He further asked, "TAM will be brought under whose control? Is it going to be IBF? I don’t know. If TAM comes under control of an oversight body which is judicious in nature, we will welcome it, but if it goes only to broadcasters or to the IBF, though I am the biggest broadcaster, I will raise objections. If broadcasters are thinking they can control TAM, it will never happen. If it is left up to the broadcasters to decide where to place the people meters, then I am against it because then the interests will get lopsided. Broadcasters’ interest in the ratings agency must be judicious and broad-based."
When asked whether Prasar Bharati too would be pulling out of TAM, Sircar replied that the public broadcaster doesn’t have any immediate plans to unsubscribe from TAM.
He further said that it was "totally unacceptable" that TAM may shift the people meters in LC 1 markers if broadcasters feel the need.
Meanwhile, when asked whether he will take part in the IRS meeting that is scheduled to take place in Mumbai this week, Sircar replied, "I am looking into it, but haven’t taken any decision about attending the meeting yet."