TRAI has issued draft recommendations on the policy guidelines and operational issues for television audience measurement / Television Rating Points (TRPs). TRAI has concluded that for the present, self regulation may work best and stated that the industry initiative – Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) – could be recognised as the institutional framework.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has sought recommendations of TRAI on the system and framework of television ratings and the policy guidelines to be adopted for rating agencies. The letter has broadly indicated the need for an appropriate framework which ensures transparency, independence of rating agencies and increased coverage reflecting the plurality of regions and viewership.
At present, two private agencies – TAM Media Research and Audience Measurement and Analytics Ltd (aMap) – are carrying out TV ratings on a commercial basis. Their operations are limited to a few large cities with a population of above one lakh. Within big cities too, their sample size is limited to a total of about 7,000 (TAM) and 6,000 (aMAP) metered homes. All states except Jammu and Kashmir, the North East, Bihar and Jharkhand are covered by TAM Media Research, whilst aMap sample covers all states except Jammu and Kashmir and the North East, but includes Jammu and Guwahati.
Television industry in India has estimated at Rs 22,600 crore as its annual revenues (2007). Of this, 35 per cent (approx Rs 8,000 crore) comes from television advertising. Television ratings primarily meant to guide the broadcasters, the media agencies and the advertisers, to determine their programme scheduling, ad spend and the placement of the advertisement have often also influenced the content as well as pricing of channels.
With increased convergence and the blurring of boundaries between carriage and content, and the significant influence exercised by content on the society, the Authority recommends that regulation of content should also be transferred to TRAI.
TRAI has concluded that for the present, self regulation may work best and a framework laying specific guidelines, including certain reporting requirements would effectively address the shortcomings. As in other countries, an industry-led body can be recognised to perform specified functions. The industry initiative – Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), can be recognised as the institutional framework. Once BARC starts functioning, the inadequacies of the present system will have to be effectively addressed in close and coordinated manner with the MIB. The Authority is of the view that any form of Governmental intervention in the form of an enactment is not desirable at this stage. Therefore, self-regulation through the industry led, not-for-profit body BARC, has been recommended with Government guidelines covering BARC’s oganisational structure, functioning and methodology.
The salient features of the recommendations include:
Initiation of activities by BARC by should be done by January 2009. There should be two nominees of the MIB on the Board of Directors of BARC.
The Technical Committee within BARC would guide and supervise the various processes of ratings and to include nominees from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata.
BARC would not undertake audience measurement directly, but resort to an open, transparent bidding process for the various stages involved in the rating process.
The MIB would provide the key eligibility norms for the selection of rating agencies and their performance obligation norms.
BARC would provide such information and reports as may be asked for by the Ministry from time to time.
The addresses and location of homes where people meter are installed would be kept totally confidential.
BARC shall have in place a Complaints Redressal Mechanism and also display the rate card for various reports and discounts offered thereon on its website.
TRAI further said that the request for proposal inviting bids from the rating agencies would be finalised by BARC after duly considering the eligibility conditions and performance obligations as provided by the MIB from time to time.
TRAI said, “Comprehensive mandatory audit of the rating system carried out by independent qualified auditing firms having experience of TV ratings audit, conducted at least once in three years. There needs to be a selection of at least two bidders for each stage of the activity in the rating process.”
TRAI also pointed out that BARC and the rating agencies should invest in programmes to educate the general public about the work of audience measurement at regular intervals in various parts of the country and through detailed information available on their websites.